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3 Mile Limit casts off

Craig Newland’s 3 Mile Limit opened in cinemas yesterday, having enjoyed an enthusiastic reception at its local premiere a couple of weeks back.

It’s a small local film that seems to be making a name for itself overseas – particularly at smaller and/or independent US festivals. To date, it’s been selected for 10 international festivals, recently winning Best Film at Washington’s DC Independent (DCIFF).

The overseas success is all the more impressive if one remembers the much better resourced British production of what is essentially the same tale (albeit UK set), The Boat That Rocked which was released in some territories as Pirate Radio and featured Rhys Darby.

A second – more factual – version of the NZ tale comes to TV One later in the year, when Pirates of the Airwaves will screen in the Sunday Theatre season.

Local reviews have so far been average, with both the Herald and Flicks giving 3 stars and a mix of positive and negative comments.

Matt Whelan, fast becoming the go to young male lead for features after My Wedding & Other Secrets and The Most Fun You Can Have Dying, carries the story opposite David Aston (Lord of the Rings, Legend of the Seeker, Spies & Lies).

3 Mile Limit trailer

One of Calder’s main beefs was with the way the film was fictionalised.

the film misrepresents not just the facts but the promethean thrill of a quintessentially Kiwi story: anarchic, disorganised, malcontent can-do rebellious teamwork is what got Hauraki going and it seems absent from this tidy, careful, colourless film.

More positively, he did allow

Newland and his team have achieved great results with what must have been a limited budget

That’s clear. With one exception, the crowd scenes are not very crowded, but that’s local films for you: a cast of tens. It doesn’t diminish the storytelling.

Flicks’ Steve Newall reckoned

3 Mile Limit takes some its opportunities to offer more context to the tale … [but] it struggles to live up to the legend when facing limitations in locations, performances and – presumably – budget that threaten to sink the whole enterprise … an interesting, if flawed watch.

The TVNZ and MediaWorks reviewers haven’t been keen. However, since we’re presently in the midst of conspiracy theories and investigations into broadcaster’s impartiality (or perceived lack of it), one should stir the pot. 3 Mile Limit is the story of Radio Hauraki, which belongs to the Radio Network, MediaWorks’ main rival in the radio space.

Overseas, reviewers have (entirely predictably) been far less focused on the truth behind the tale and far more generous in their assessments.

FilmThreat reviewed it in December at the Fargo Film Festival, where it won Best Narrative Feature. It summed up the film neatly

A David vs. Goliath story. A bit of romance. A pleasant cast with a handsome, everyman’s hero lead. Government oppression … And lots of great sounding Sixties’ styled tunes. Mix them all together and you get 3 Mile Limit, one of the more clever origin stories coming at ya from down under.

3 Mile Limit is not yet a hit in its native country, but it should be

The reviewer also called Newland’s homage to the legendary 1960s pirate radio phenomenon “a very impressive feature film debut”.

“The film is gripping and brilliantly acted and directed. It will be released in NZ and I hope it will make its way to general distribution around the world,” reckoned a US-based former Radio NZ correspondent. “It is in the category of Once Were Warriors and Whale Rider.”

The film has an interesting distribution model. 3 Mile Limit has been on its way for a dozen years, but early in the piece Newland did a deal with Hauraki’s parent company, the Radio Network, for radio advertising.

Since no distributor could match the value of that deal, Newland is the distributor of record – as well as wearing writer, director and producer hats. Arkles’ John Davies is the distributor of experience, but has been working essentially as a booking agent for the title.

The Radio Network’s campaign has run across the bulk of its stations, and has been joined today by a ZM campaign to sell the soundtrack. Beyond radio, Newland has invested in some billboard advertising.

At time of writing, the opening day numbers weren’t in, but Monday’s figures should give some clues to 3 Mile Limit‘s potential.

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