Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Just to recommend this movie for every former foster care youth that ever yearned for a good life and freedom. Taika Waititi was recently featured in Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential Persons issue. My son remembered this movie of his – Hunt for the Wilderpeople. We had seen it before but so long ago, I only remember a couple of scenes and not even much about those.

Regarding the movie – Ricky Baker – was abandoned as a baby by his teenage mother and who has since been shifted several times through foster families by child welfare officers. The film is based on the novel Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump. Some thoughts on that book follow.

Ricky Baker is a troubled 12 year old Maori boy. He is always committing small illegal acts. So he is sent for foster care with Bella and Hec. “Uncle” Hec is a tough, grouchy fifty-three old bushman who eventually warms to Ricky and teaches him how to hunt and survive in the bush. When “Auntie” Bella dies from a sudden stroke and social welfare plan to place Ricky in another foster home.

Uncle Hec and Ricky take to the bush and disappear in the dense Urewera region of the North Island, tramping and hunting and staying a few days at a time in the dozens of forester’s huts scattered in the remote, heavily mountain ridged area. The authorities wrongly surmise that Ricky has been abducted by his “uncle” and a search by forestry workers and police ensues. The rest of the novel follows the duo’s journey and their struggle for survival over the next nineteen months through a variety of humorous and sometimes tragic anecdotes. The writing is simple and sparkingly clear.

Crump uses his vast knowledge of the New Zealand bush and his practical bush skills to add considerable credibility and interest in his narrative. On several occasions I have gone pig hunting with the locals in the heavily forested area south of Opotiki and stayed in the forester’s huts and Crump brings this way of living alive with zest and color through his wonderful descriptions of the bush and its wildlife. Consider this amazing description of the land:

“All this bush- there was so much of it. You could stand on a high ridge and as far as you could see in every direction rose other high ridges of bush, disappearing into the distance, split by slips and creeks and bluffs, but always with the bush growing in and on and around everything. There were times when I really didn’t think I’d ever see open land again. Sometimes the country we travelled through was so steep and broken up you noticed every flat area, even if it was only big enough to put your foot on. In other places the ridges were long and easy and open under the trees, and the rivers wide and flat, but I soon found out that you never travel far in the Urewera without coming across rough going.”

In chapter 4 ‘A Tin of Peaches’ he describes a fascinating encounter with a fierce boar. The language has a spontaneous, immediate sense to it and we tremble in Ricky’s worn boots.

“I was going to yell out to Uncle Hec when something came crashing down like a falling boulder through a ferny vine-filled gully and out through a stony place to the riverbed where it suddenly stopped, right under the bank I’d just slid down. It was a huge grey boar, like a big piece of elephant, with pricked-up hairy ears and dark sullen tufts for eyes. Its mouth was frothing and chomping on its big white tusks and its tail was slapping from side to side while it stood there.”

“If you’d never heard or seen a pig before you’d know this one was definitely dangerous. And there I was standing right out in the open, thirty feet away from it, and I couldn’t tell if it had seen me or not. We stood like that forever, then suddenly this great big thing let out a WHOOF and ran downstream, bigger than ever, through the creek with a shower of water and round the corner, heading up into the bush on the other side.”

~ my blog today is thanks to Bold Monkey Review

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