1996, Warner Bros., 135 min, USA, Dir: John Sayles

Chris Cooper plays an easygoing Texas sheriff who discovers unpleasant truths about his town and his own past in this intricately plotted murder mystery. Displaying his usual talent for ensemble characterization, director John Sayles follows nearly a dozen major players (Kris Kristofferson, Frances McDormand and Matthew McConaughey are among the film's many talented actors) as their stories intersect and raise questions about political corruption, multiculturalism, and other contemporary issues.

1994, HanWay Films, 102 min, New Zealand, Dir: Lee Tamahori

The nominal head of the dysfunctional family at the center of this gut-wrenching drama is Jake Heke (Temuera Morrison), an alcoholic powderkeg. Wife Beth (Rena Owen) is used to his abuse, but life on the poor side of Otara, New Zealand is beginning to take its toll on their five children – and that may be enough to get her to take a stand. With its title reflecting Beth’s Maori heritage, the film is both inspiring and heartbreaking by turns, with unforgettable lead performances illuminating these complex characters. With Cliff Curtis.

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