The Dark Horse (2014 film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
The Dark Horse
The Dark Horse - 2014 - poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by James Napier Robertson
Produced by Tom Hern
Written by James Napier Robertson
Music by Dana Lund
Cinematography Denson Baker
Edited by Peter Roberts
  • Four Knights Film[1]
  • Southern Light Films
Distributed by Transmission Films
Broad Green Pictures
Release date
  • 17 July 2014 (2014-07-17) (New Zealand)
  • 1 April 2016 (2016-04-01) (United States)
Running time
125 minutes[2]
Country New Zealand
Language English
Budget $2.1 million[3]
Box office $1.9 million[4]

The Dark Horse is a 2014 New Zealand drama film written and directed by James Napier Robertson and starring Cliff Curtis and James Rolleston. It won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Score at the 2014 New Zealand Film Awards, Best Film at the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF), 2015 San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF) and 2015 Rotterdam International Film Festival (IFFR), was NYT Critics' Pick[5] and Time Magazine Critics' Pick,[6] and was labeled by leading New Zealand critics as "One of the greatest New Zealand films ever made".[7][8] It premiered at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), and was created by production company Four Knights Film. The film was released theatrically in the U.S. by Broad Green Pictures on 1 April 2016.[9][10]


The Dark Horse is based on the real-life story of Genesis Potini, a brilliant New Zealand chess player who suffered from severe bipolar disorder. Despite the challenges that came his way, Potini pushed forward to find his purpose in life by passing on his knowledge of chess to the community.[11]


Real-life basis[edit]

The character Curtis plays, Genesis, is inspired by real-life Gisborne speed chess player and coach Genesis Potini, who died in 2011. By teaching local youth to play chess, he hoped to give them a positive focus in life and dissuade them from getting involved in gangs and crime. Potini struggled with bipolar disorder, requiring frequent hospital stays.[12] Potini had been the subject of a well received 2003 documentary film, Dark Horse.[13] At the request of director James Napier Robertson, Curtis gained close to 60 pounds in weight and stayed in character for the entirety of the shoot to play Genesis.[14] Napier Robertson also had Curtis study chess with some of Potini's erstwhile friends, including FIDE Master Ewen Green.[15]

Release and reception[edit]

The Dark Horse has received positive reviews from critics. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 97%, based on 62 reviews, with an average rating of 7.5/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Led by an outstanding performance from Cliff Curtis, The Dark Horse tackles complex themes with a richly layered, unpredictable, and deeply affecting story."[16] On Metacritic, the film holds a rating of 77 out of 100, based on 20 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[17] Upon its premiere as the Opening Night film of the New Zealand International Film Festival on 17 July 2014,[18] The Dark Horse was declared by the RNZ National Review "One of the greatest New Zealand films ever made".[19] The film went on to become a New Zealand box office hit, grossing $2 million and receiving unanimously strong reviews. The New Zealand Herald rated it 5 stars, calling it "a great, deeply affecting movie", praising the "brave, assured and layered directing" and the "towering performance of Cliff Curtis".[20] It was released theatrically in Australia on 20 November 2014. The Australian called it "outstanding ... a Kiwi – and largely Maori – work of the highest artistic excellence";[21] the Sydney Morning Herald praised it as "possibly the best movie to come out of New Zealand since Once Were Warriors in 1994".[22] It premiered internationally at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival.[23] Variety calling it "exceptional...the most deserving cinematic export to emerge from New Zealand in years",[24] The Hollywood Reporter announcing it "certain to attract awards attention",[25] and Indiewire grading it an 'A', praising it as "moving and incredibly humanistic."[26] It has been scheduled for a worldwide theatrical release in 2015.

Awards and Nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Work Result Ref.
2014 Asia Pacific Screen Awards Best Performance by an Actor Cliff Curtis Won [27]
2014 Rialto Channel New Zealand Film Awards Best Film The Dark Horse Won [28]
Best Director James Napier Robertson Won
Best Screenplay James Napier Robertson Won
Best Actor Cliff Curtis Won
Best Supporting Actor James Rolleston Won
Best Score Dana Lund Won
Best Supporting Actor Wayne Hapi Nominated
Best Make-Up Jane O'Kane Nominated
Best Costume Design Kristin Seth Nominated
Best Editing Peter Roberts Nominated
Best Sound Chris Todd, Nick Buckton, Fred Enholmer, Tim Chaproniere Nominated
Best Production Design Kim Sinclair Nominated
Best Cinematographer Denson Baker Nominated
New Zealand Writers Guild Best Feature Film The Dark Horse Won [29]
2015 Art Film Fest Best Director James Napier Robertson Won [30]
Best Film The Dark Horse Nominated
Dublin Film Critics' Circle Best Actor Cliff Curtis Won [31]
Best Film The Dark Horse Nominated
Heartland Film Festival Truly Moving Picture Award The Dark Horse Won [32]
International Film Festival Rotterdam Audience Award James Napier Robertson Won [33]
MovieZone Award The Dark Horse Won
Munich Film Festival Best International Film The Dark Horse Nominated [34]
Best Film By An Emerging Director James Napier Robertson Nominated
Seattle International Film Festival Best Film The Dark Horse Won [35]
Best Actor Cliff Curtis Won
San Francisco International Film Festival Best Film The Dark Horse Won [36]
Palm Springs International Film Festival Audience Award The Dark Horse Won [37]
Washington DC Film Festival Commendation The Dark Horse Won [38]
St Tropez International Film Festival Best Film The Dark Horse Won [39]


  1. ^ "The Dark Horse". Four Knights Film. Retrieved 5 August 2014. 
  2. ^ "THE DARK HORSE (15)". British Board of Film Classification. 25 March 2015. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ "THE DARK HORSE". Boxofficemojo. Retrieved 8 September 2016. 
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Film review with Dan Slevin". Radio New Zealand National. 24 July 2014. 
  9. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony. "Broad Green Dates Three: ‘I Smile Back’, ‘The Dark Horse’, Malick’s ‘Knight Of Cups’". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 23 July 2015. 
  10. ^ Brennan, Matt. "Broad Green Sets Release Dates for Bryan Cranston's 'The Infiltrator,' Ewan McGregor's 'Last Days in the Desert'". Indie Wire. Retrieved 27 November 2015. 
  11. ^ Rutledge, Daniel. "New Zealand Film Festival 2014 To Open With THE DARK HORSE". Twitch Film. Retrieved 15 May 2015. 
  12. ^ Bevan, Darren (22 July 2014). "NZIFF Review - The Dark Horse". Retrieved 27 July 2014. 
  13. ^ "Speed chess maestro of Ngati Porou stars in independent documentary". The Big Idea. 6 November 2003. 
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ "The Dark Horse (2016)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved 21 March 2017. 
  17. ^ "The Dark Horse Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 21 March 2017. 
  18. ^ Preston, Nikki (17 July 2014). "New Cliff Curtis film Dark Horse at short odds". The New Zealand Herald. 
  19. ^ "Film review with Dan Slevin". Radio New Zealand National. 24 July 2014. 
  20. ^ Baillie, Russell (31 July 2014). "Movie review: The Dark Horse". The New Zealand Herald. 
  21. ^ Romei, Stephen (22 November 2014). "The Dark Horse: Maori lives caught up in chess and violence". The Australian. Retrieved 26 December 2014. 
  22. ^ Byrnes, Paul (21 November 2014). "The Dark Horse review: Triumphant game of life and death". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 26 December 2014. 
  23. ^ Schoettle, Jane. "The Dark Horse". TIFF. Toronto International Film Festival. Retrieved 26 December 2014. 
  24. ^
  25. ^ Rechtshaffen, Michael. "'The Dark Horse': Toronto Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 26 December 2014. 
  26. ^ Anderson, John (11 September 2014). "Toronto review: Cliff Curtis excels as a chess master in 'The Dark Horse'". Indiewire. Retrieved 26 December 2014. 
  27. ^ "8th Annual Asia Pacific Screen Award Winners". 2014-12-11. Retrieved 2016-04-14. 
  28. ^ Baillie, Russell (2014-12-12). "The Dark Horse sweeps NZ film awards". Retrieved 2016-04-14. 
  29. ^ "SWANZ Winners & Finalists 2014". Retrieved 2016-04-14. 
  30. ^ "Art Film Fest 2015". Retrieved 2016-04-14. 
  31. ^ Clarke, Donald (2015-03-29). "The winners at JDIFF from the Dublin Film Critics Circle". Retrieved 2016-04-14. 
  32. ^ "Heartland Truly Moving Picture Award Archives". Retrieved 2016-04-14. 
  33. ^ "Awards 2015". Retrieved 2016-04-14. 
  34. ^ "Families, Westerns, Northwesterns". 2015-06-19. Retrieved 2016-04-14. 
  35. ^ "2015 Award Winners". Retrieved 2016-04-14. 
  36. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  37. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  38. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  39. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)

External links[edit]