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July 14, 2008 | by  | in Film |
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Ross Kemp on Gangs

Trust a British soap star to brilliantly encapsulate the fuckedness of Aotearoa’s gang culture, while simultaneously getting our national history completely wrong. Ross Kemp, former East Enders star, manages to draw out a series of amazing terrifying interviews from members of the Mongrel Mob. Perhaps they deigned to talk to him because he looks like a hard bastard; it also helps that the film cannot be shown in New Zealand. However, while it’s fascinating and almost impossible to look away from – even when they’re discussing their love of gang rape and violence – this doesn’t make it a perfect documentary. Much of the footage is pointless and not fully explained, and the voiceover gives the documentary a bizarre, detached feel.

However, Kemp manages to get New Zealand history and Maori culture entirely wrong. He describes conflict between Maori and Pakeha as ending in 1840 with the signing of the Treaty, even though the New Zealand Wars continued for many decades. Kemp has a thin understanding of Maori culture, striving to link falsified Maori warrior traditions to the current gangs. Although it is unfortunately common for Pakeha observers to describe Maori as “once were warriors”, this is a fairly lazy description because Maori were lots of things – to quote the late Irihapeti Ramsden: “Once were gardeners, once were astronomers, once were philosophers, once were lovers.” These gangsters think of themselves as Mungies rather than Maori; they are ignorant thugs, and although Kemp largely takes their word at face value, it is the disturbing tales they tell that make this film worth downloading.

It’s a remarkable, disturbing look into to a world which, although close in physical proximity to our own lives, is lightyears away from the way in which we live them.

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