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“In 1890s New Zealand, two Chinese gold miners in a remote valley struggle to improve their lot. Chan is restless and unhappy; his father-in-law Kim wants to return to China. The goldfields are in decline; the presence of surveyors working in the area confirms that change is imminent. When they make a lucky strike on their claim it seems their problems are over... But for Chan, his story is just beginning.”
“Festival/Awards: 2011 New Zealand International Film Festival; 1988 Taormina Film Festival, Bronze Charybdis; 1988 Hawaii Film Festival, Best Feature Film; 1988 NZ Film and TV Awards, Best Cinematography (Alan Locke); 1988 NZ Film and TV Awards; Best Contribution to a Film Soundtrack (Bob Allen, Gethin Creagh, Mike Hopkins); 1988 NZ Film and TV Awards; Best Director (Leon Narbey); 1988 NZ Film and TV Awards; Best Editor (David Coulson); 1988 NZ Film and TV Awards;Best Score (Jan Preston); 1988 NZ Film and TV Awards; Best Supporting Female Performance (Heather Bolton); 1988 NZ Film and TV Awards; Best Supporting Male Performance (Peter Hayden); 1988 NZ Film and TV Awards;Best Production Design (Jeanelle Aston).” - New Zealand Film Commission; www.nzfilm.co.nz/film/illustrious-energy; 28/01/2014.
“Illustrious Energy was to begin filming in the summer of 1986 but there was a delay. The production paid for Narbey and designer Janelle Aston to continue working. ‘Having a year of pre- production on Illustrious Energy was fantastic. It enabled Janelle and me to come to terms with all the locations, the props, the dialogue. We could go over it again and again and become totally familiar with all the nuances and the subtext. It was very valuable.’” Leon Narbey in, Douglas Jenkin, “A rare energy”, NZ Listener, October 22, 1988
“It’s seemingly simple story of two impoverished miners and their sad fate, conceals a much more complex drama of human frailty and demolishes many of the myths about the Chinese way of life a century ago. It also faces up to the climate of violence and ugly prejudice that existed towards the Chinese and the ingenious way they were eventually to overcome same without sacrificing their identity [...] The production values are near flawless. Director Leon Narbey has a painter’s eye for detail and the dense colour photography literally textures landscape, players and story into a single form” From 1988 Auckland International Film Festival programme