'The Dark Horse'
“I saw a documentary about Genesis. It was not very well known, but I was immediately struck by how incredible and articulate and intelligent yet complex and almost contradictory he was as a person, as a character. I thought he’d make a most remarkable character to try and capture in a 2 hour narrative of the film,” writer-director James Napier Robertson told Hollywood on the Potomac at a screening at MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) in conjunction with the Embassy of New Zealand. The film is “The Dark Horse” based on the true story of Genesis Potini, a brilliant chess champion struggling with mental illness who searches for purpose and finds it in passing on his gift to children in his community. The Maori people, a unique culture that holds its roots in New Zealand, are a key focus of the film, giving audiences a glimpse into their lives.
“I was in LA at the time when I saw it. My producer had sent it to me. I immediately booked my flights and flew back to New Zealand and went down to Gizban and met with Genesis,” Robertson added. “Very quickly after meeting with him, we sat down across a chess board. Fortunately for me, I played chess since I was a kid. I was able to lose, but lose not too quickly. I think that earned me a bit of respect from him and kind of kicked off our relationship. From there, over the next year, we’ve played hundreds of games of chess. We just talked all about his life, his experiences, his philosophies about the world. While we were doing this I started writing the screenplay. I think that my first unpredictable and messy and challenging in a way, particularly for someone like Genesis, chess was a way of finding order within the world. That structure within it, but of course, you can’t ignore the real world for that long. I guess in a way that’s what my film is about. As far as, also, that thing of having a singular focus, I think film can be that same for me just as something like chess could be at someone like Genesis. I think in a way we all benefit from having some sort of passion or something that we love that we. For someone like Genesis, chess was a way of finding order within the world. That structure within it, but of course, you can’t ignore the real world for that long. I guess in a way that’s what my film is about.”