What to watch: Red, White & Brass in cinemas

Red, White & Brass is the latest entry in a long line of musical underdog films – and it's worth checking out in cinemas before it's too late.

Red, White & Brass is a fun little release from our New Zealand neighbours that’s worth a trip to the cinema for before it ends its run.

The film mainly follows the standard underdog, fake-it-til-you-make it story beats, and it works well thanks in no small part to the lead cast’s charisma.

Maka (John Paul Foliaki), a Tongan superfan, will do whatever it takes to get him and his family tickets to the Tonga v France Rugby World Cup game – even if that means pretending to be the head of a brass band for the pre-match entertainment. When the lie becomes reality, Maka and his church group have four weeks to actually become that brass band.

It’s inspired by a true story, which makes it all the more joyous.

Read: Under the Vines on ABC review: to New Zealand with love

What it’s like

Red, White & Brass was produced by Taika Waititi, so naturally it has that Kiwi-humour charm that worked so well for films like Boy and Hunt For The Wilderpeople. As far as music-based films go, it has a similar feel to the ‘rag tag team gets the band back together’ story of The Blues Brothers, and even the moreso the 2009 French comedy The Concert. In other words, you’ll find its plot and jokes very familiar, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

What it’s not like

Despite being about a group of superfans going to a rugby game, the film has very little to do with sport – and those going in expecting a firey world cup drama will be disappointed.

Read: Behind many great films is a great woman supervising music

Why you should watch

Red, White & Brass was filmed in Te Whanganui-a-Tara (the Māori name for Wellington Harbour), New Zealand, and it boasts a talented ensemble of Tongan and Māori acting talent, including: John Paul Foliaki as the unflappable Maka, Dimitrius Schuster-Koloamatangi as his long-suffering mate Veni, Michael Falesiu as the dilligent Samisoni, Onetoto Ikavuka as Rob, Lupeti Finau as Uncle Sam, and Ilaisaane Green as Irene. It also features dialogue in the Tongan language.

The liberties taken with ‘what really happened’ won’t phase many audience members, as the heightening of true events like the whole church group taking over a highschool music classroom is just delightfully silly. This film is a real-crowd pleaser, and undoubtedly a good choice to see in the cinema.

Red, White & Brass

Directed by: Damon Fepulea’i

Produced by: Georgina Allison Conder, Morgan Waru, Halaifonua Finau

Executive produced by: Taika Waititi, Ainsley Gardiner, Carthew Neal

Written by: Halaifonua Finau, Damon Fepulea’i

Rated PG

In cinemas now.

Silvi Vann-Wall is a journalist, podcaster, and filmmaker. They joined ScreenHub as Film Content Lead in 2022. Twitter: @SilviReports