Tracker is a 2011 British-New Zealand action-thriller film set in 1903 New Zealand, directed by Ian Sharp and starring Ray Winstone and Temuera Morrison.
Arjan van Diemen (Winstone) is a renowned Afrikaner commando leader of the Second Boer War, and a master tracker. After the end of the war, after the defeat by the British, he emigrates from South Africa to the British colony of New Zealand but is recognised by Sergeant Saunders, a British soldier who also fought in the Second Boer War, and is arrested upon entry. However Major Carlyle, also a Second Boer War veteran on the British side, and now the officer in charge of the British Garrison in New Zealand, respects van Diemen as a former opponent and releases him.
Meanwhile Keremea (Morrison), a Maori sailor meets with his British girlfriend and they discuss getting married. A drunk Sergeant Saunders arrives with two of his comrades, and he expresses his anger at the Maori coupling with "pure British women." He and his comrades then beat and taunt Keremea, who at first takes the beating but after an insult to the Maori resistance to British rule gets up and fights all three until in the confusion Saunders accidentally kills one of his own men. Sergeant Saunders evades responsibility by blaming Keremea, and the English soldiers intimidate Keremea's girlfriend into confirming their story. Keremea knows that he will not have a fair trial and runs. After Sergeant Saunders convinces a skeptical Major Carlyle of Keremea's guilt, Major Carlyle with a tracker (Mr Bryce) and some English soldiers pursue Keremea. Major Carlyle knows that van Diemen is a master tracker and offers him a substantial reward to help them.
On the beach at the mouth of a river Keremea disguises his tracks to look as if he has continued along the beach whereas he has in fact turned inland. Van Diemen is the only one not fooled and while the English soldiers follow the false trail, van Diemen continues after Keremea. Eventually van Diemen surprises and captures Keremea as he wakes from a sleep. Keremea pretends to speak only Maori but van Diemen does not fall for the ploy, and they start a conversation while they walk. Van Diemen shows Keremea a photograph of his wife and three daughters.
Keremea persistently protests his innocence of the murder of the English soldier as van Diemen takes him back, and says he will not have a fair trial. When van Diemen pauses to bath in a river Keremea succeeds in surprising him and there is a tense standoff with both Keremea and van Diemen holding guns on each other, Keremea with van Diemen's rifle and van Diemen with his pistol. The standoff is finally broken when Keremea knocks out van Diemen and leaves, but then returns to rescue the unconscious van Diemen from the river so he does not drown. Keremea ties van Diemen to a tree and taunts him while going through his belongings. Van Diemen manages to surprise and overwhelm Keremea, and arrests him again. They continue on the long walk back to the town and along the way Keremea appeals to van Diemen, exclaiming, "You fought the British in the Boer War, I fought them too. We both hate the British!" Van Diemen rejects the statement and claims that he fought for independence while all Keremea did was commit crimes. This prompts Keremea to explain his painful family past and his people's own war of independence. He explains how the British burned down his village and forced him to watch as they hung his father. Keremea then confesses that when his grandfather asked for help all he did was run away. This obviously connects to van Diemen, who reveals that his farm had been burned by the British during the Second Boer War when he was away and that all of his family had disappeared presumed killed. However notwithstanding their common traumas at the hands of the British, van Diemen still refuses to release Keremea and after Keremea again escapes the tension finally culminates in a bloody hand-to-hand fight where Keremea gains the upper hand. However as he is about to kill van Diemen Major Carlyle arrives and arrests the Maori.
On the walk back Sergeant Saunders unexpectedly joins the party. Van Diemen notices the tension between the Sergeant and Keremea and, while sharing a meal, asks for details of his alleged crime. Keremea explains all he did was "fall in love with a white woman." Van Diemen then explains that one of his best African friends was arrested and executed for sleeping with a white woman, and quietly leaves a knife with Keremea. Keremea escapes and both the English soldiers and van Diemen pursue him again. Van Diemen goes ahead and lays a false trail for Major Carlyle and his men to follow. He helps Keremea to a holy place where both say prayers for their respective families. Van Diemen and Keremea are then cornered by the British and as the British close in Keremea accepts the futility of trying to escape and asks van Diemen to kill him and let him die honorably rather than being dragged back to the British town and being hung "without mana". While Keremea is performing a Haka to prepare himself for the afterlife, van Diemen apparently shoots him. When Major Carlyle arrives van Diemen gives him a severed index finger (a reference to earlier in the film where van Diemen reveals that the Boers cut off their British prisoners' index fingers so they could not shoot a rifle again) as proof of Keremea's death, stating "another trophy for the glory of his Majesty." Sergeant Saunders tries to take Keremea's head but van Diemen defends his body and asks Carlyle to bury it. Carlyle refuses, claiming "too much time has been spent on him." Van Diemen and the British team leave and depart for the town.
A day later Major Carlyle suddenly realises that he did not inspect the body and that he has been tricked; the Maori is alive. He orders soldiers to every dock and port to be on the lookout for a "Maori with his right index finger missing." He confronts van Diemen, who is on the beach waiting to leave for Australia, and tells him that although Keremea may be alive he cannot leave New Zealand and will be captured. It is revealed that Major Carlyle had been responsible for the burning of van Diemen's African farm, although he says that van Diemen's family were not inside the farmhouse when it was burned.
In a flashback it is revealed that van Diemen had shot into the air and knocked Keremea out instead of killing him. Meanwhile Keremea arrives at harbour and, in front of English soldiers, buys a ticket off the island revealing that he has all ten fingers. Van Diemen is shown in the boat taking him to the Australian ship with only nine fingers; he had cut off his own finger. Arjan van Diemen then looks at a picture of his family, smiles, and sails off for a new home.
The filmmakers describe the story's background as follows:
The Second Boer War, a conflict between the British Empire and the two independent Boer republics in South Africa, lasted from 11 October 1899 until 31 May 1902.
With the British in nominal control of the republics by 1901, the Boer farmers adopted guerrilla warfare tactics: strike fast and hard causing as much damage to the enemy as possible, and then withdraw and vanish before enemy reinforcements could arrive. This strategy proved effective and the British were forced to revise their own tactics.
The British retaliated with a “Scorched Earth” policy, bringing the Boers to their knees. As British troops swept the countryside, they systematically destroyed crops, burned homesteads and farms, poisoned wells, and interned Boer women and children in concentration camps.
In the aftermath, many of the defeated Boers were unable to return to their farms at all; others attempted to do so but were forced to abandon farms as unworkable given the damage caused by farm burning and salting of the fields in the course of the scorched earth policy. Thus, many drifted to the far corners of the empire, in search of a new home...
The cast consists of British and New Zealand actors.
- Arjan van Diemen: Ray Winstone
- Kereama: Temuera Morrison
- Carlyle: Gareth Reeves
- Saunders: Mark Mitchinson
- Rennick: Dan Musgrove
- Bryce: Andy Anderson
- Leybourne: Mick Rose
- Lucy: Jodie Hillock
Director: Ian Sharp Writer: Nicholas Van Pallandt The film is a co-production of the UK Film Council and New Zealand Film Commission.
It was shot around the Queenstown lakes area.
Tracker opened in the UK on 22 April 2011. The film went to DVD in June 2011, distributed internationally by Kaleidoscope Entertainment.
Tracker made official selection for the Toronto and Valencia film festivals.
- "Cast". Tracker. http://www.trackerthemovie.com/cast.html. Retrieved 28 August 2011.
- "Crew". Tracker. http://www.trackerthemovie.com/crew.html. Retrieved 28 August 2011.
- Roxburgh, Tracey (21 November 2009). "Filming of 'epic' NZ story under way". Otago Daily Times. http://www.odt.co.nz/news/queenstown-lakes/82893/filming-039epic039-nz-story-under-way. Retrieved 23 November 2011.
- "Cinemas". Tracker. http://www.trackerthemovie.com/cinemas.html. Retrieved 28 August 2011.