Inspired by a true story, tells the tale of Billy and Tom, two young men who fall in love in 1960s rural New Zealand. They believe in honesty and truth, but neither will be accepted by society if they stay true to themselves. A tinderbox of deceit and malice emerges as Billy discovers that he is not the only one fighting his desires and hiding his demons. The film explores the difficulties and struggle that a homosexual man would have had to experience in New Zealand in the 1960’s, being both not accepted in the very masculine society that 1960s rural New Zealand was, as well as completely illegal.
The I’m Local Project caught up with director Alastair Riddell to chat more about this exciting homegrown take on sexuality in rural NZ.
Was the story based on real life events?
West of Eden, for the most part, is like many stories a blend of fiction and truth, influenced and infused with elements from real people and real events. However, the core of the story is inspired by a real incident. I cannot go into more detail about that event without spoiling the film.
What was one of the more challenging aspects of depicting this time in New Zealand’s history?
Working with what can best be described as a micro-budget meant we had to work around many logistical problems. We were not able to cordon off locations or build sets and had to shoot in multiple locations for one scene. Finding or buying period clothing and particularly hats that were appropriate for the time was difficult and we mostly had to purchase pieces like that. We are particularly indebted to our classic vehicle owners as well: they were amazingly helpful, and the contribution the vehicles make to the look and feel of the film is significant.
For LGBTIQ youth in New Zealand now, what do you hope they might take away from this love story?
From my point of view the film is essentially about freedom and how precious these freedoms are; that have been fought for and won. Until 1986 homosexuality was illegal in New Zealand. If nothing else, I hope ‘West of Eden’ reminds people of the fight that Gay people have had, to change social attitudes and openly express, something as simple as their sexual preference. ‘West of Eden’ is about the freedom of consenting adults to love who they want to love. ‘West of Eden’ is an acknowledgment of how far we have come and a reminder of what we must always strive to maintain.
West of Eden premiered 22nd Feb as part of the Auckland Pride Festival 2017. It opens at Auckland’s Rialto and select cinemas from March 9th.