The Dark Horse is an emotionally potent story of redemption anchored by a heart-piercing performance from Cliff Curtis. Portraying the late Genesis Potini, a psychiatric patient-turned-local hero, Curtis (Whale Rider), commands the screen.

A former chess prodigy who has spent a great deal of his life in mental institutions, Potini is released into the care of his older brother, Ariki (Wayne Hapi), a gang member whose violent lifestyle doesn’t bode well for either Genesis or Ariki’s teenage son, Mana (James Rolleston). Genesis finds salvation teaching chess to a group of displaced kids, contending he can turn them into worthy competitors in time for an upcoming national tournament.

While the main character might share something in common with the protagonists in Shine and A Beautiful Mind, director-writer Robertson has no intent of romanticizing mental illness. As Potini, Curtis demonstrates a commitment that goes well beyond physical transformation, and there’s very capable support from Rolleston and Hapi in a raw, convincing turn as Gen’s brother.

Michael Rechtshaffen
The Hollywood Reporter


Please note that the festival is over 18s only