A crew of misfits, a government with a choke-hold on fun, some No. 8 wire and a cracking sound track – set sail for pirate radio’s heyday. (★★★ Directed by Craig Newland)
After the Rolling Stones’ 1964 tour, legendary guitarist Keith Richards infamously described New Zealand as the ‘‘a…hole of the world’’.
It might have been crude and rude, but from the point of view of rock’n’roll, Richards was right.
Deeply conservative and determinedly straight laced, Kiwi broadcasting in the 60s was a state controlled affair consisting of dour cooking shows, chamber music and horse racing.
That was until a group of music-hungry larrikins launched a ratty old trawler called the Tiri into international waters and started broadcasting the southern hemisphere’s first pirate station – Radio Hauraki.
3 Mile Limit, by first time feature director Craig Newland tells a much altered and dramatised version of Radio Hauraki’s story, with a kiwiana edge.
Mired in the cultural wasteland of 1960s Auckland, music journalist Richard Davis (an absolutely stellar Matt Whelan) is desperate to get modern music on the airwaves but is repeatedly turned down for broadcasting licence.
Furious and frustrated, he gathers together a gaggle of music loving misfits with a plan to broadcast new sounds from the middle of the Hauraki Gulf, outside the 3 mile limit of New Zealand law.
It’s not all plain sailing, though, with the po-faced Minister of Broadcasting (David Aston), his henchmen and the police arrayed against the Tiri’s fearless crew.
Davis sidesteps, sweet-talks and finally loan sharks his way past obstacles to get the Tiri out on the briny, proving he’ll stop at nothing to break the government monopoly on entertainment.
But as the Radio Hauraki mice get ready to rock’n’roar the Government, and ultimately the weather, has other plans.
Straight out of the docks, an obvious comparison is Richard Curtis’s The Boat That Rockedf, in which Kiwi-born Curtis transplanted Hauraki’s tale of pop culture derring-do to the North Sea and crewed it with an embarrassment of caricatures.
3 Mile Limit, however, is no comedic dog’s dinner and, for all it’s first-film-faults, it’s far more authentic than that.
From the hammy acting to the neatly mowed quarter acre sections, from the two tone, state house kitchens to the awesome sounds of Ray Columbus, this is a film about being a bloody minded, No.th8 wire wielding (in fact the film’s production company is called No. 8), authority bucking tru-blue Kiwi.
And that’s pretty glorious.
It’s not a perfect film – some of the lines drop like lead weights, the pacing is a tad shonkey and it’s a little too pat to be really dramatic – Real events have been mercilessly chopped up to fit a cinematic pattern.
But, as first features go, this little film’s got mighty big sails. Even Keith Richards would be cheering the final scenes.
Like the Tiri, 3 Mile Limit may be a little rickety, but it’s a sound vessel for Newland’s fresh Kiwi talent. Long may he sail.