In NY and LA Theatres
About the Story
Based upon a powerful true story, The Dark Horse is the uplifting portrait of a man searching for the courage to lead, despite his struggles with mental illness. The film features a stunning, award-winning performance by Cliff Curtis (Whale Rider, Blow, “Fear the Walking Dead”) as Genesis “Gen” Potini, a brilliant but troubled New Zealand chess champion who finds purpose by teaching underprivileged children about the rules of chess and life.
After years in and out of mental institutions, Genesis is released into the care of his estranged brother Ariki (Wayne Hapi) and thrust into his volatile gang lifestyle. Seeking to escape this toxic environment, Genesis finds solace by volunteering at the Eastern Knights chess club and sharing his gift with the disadvantaged Maori children of his community. Charismatic and impassioned, Gen encourages the group to train for the upcoming National Chess Championships. But his teaching puts him at odds with his brother when Ariki’s son Mana (James Rolleston) shows an interest in the game – chess is considered a distraction from the teen’s imminent initiation into his father’s gang.
Genesis’s conflict with his brother and the violent gang, along with his ongoing battle with his illness, threaten to ruin the hopeful progress Gen has made for himself and the young Eastern Knights. But Genesis’s positivity leads him to always search for light, even when the world seems at its darkest.
This positivity was ultimately what inspired Director James Napier Robertson to want to tell the inspiring story of Genesis Potini. “He had this determined optimism about life and the world, despite the obstacles that he had to rally against,” Napier Robertson says. “I wanted to make a film that could capture the raw truth of Gen's life, but show that there was always hope there.”
The Dark Horse is a film by James Napier Robertson, starring Cliff Curtis, James Rolleston, Kirk Torrance, Miriama McDowell, and Wayne Hapi. Inspired by Jim Marbrook’s documentary “Dark Horse,” the film is written by James Napier Robertson and produced by Tom Hern. The executive producers are Cliff Curtis and Timothy White. The director of photography is Denson Baker ACS. The film is edited by Peter Roberts, with production design by Kim Sinclair, original score by Dana Lund, and costume design by Kristin Seth.
The Dark Horse won Best Film at the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival and the 2014 New Zealand Film and TV Awards, and won People’s Choice Audience Awards at the Rotterdam, Seattle and San Francisco Film Festivals. The film also won a special SIGNIS Commendation Award (given to films that “illuminate and celebrate what it means to be human in a diverse and challenging world").