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NZIFF: A burned-out transgender activist returns home to find himself in web series Rūrangi

A burned-out transgender activist returns home to find himself and the past he left behind in web series Rūrangi, directed by Max Currie.  

Caz (Elz Carrad) in a still from Rūrangi. Source: Supplied

By River Lin

Six months after losing his partner to suicide and burned out in his role as an activist, Caz Davis (newcomer Elz Carrad) returns from Auckland to his hometown in Rūrangi, which he had left a decade ago, before his transition.

However, after 10 years away, reaction to Caz’s arrival in the small farming town is mixed from the people who knew him before his transition, including best friend Anahera (Āwhina Rose Henare Ashby) and former lover Gem (Arlo Green), as they come to terms with who they thought he was and why he left.

Caz also hopes to reconnect with his father, Gerald Davis (Kirk Torrance), a dairy farmer who has become an environmental activist following the death of his wife, and Caz's mother, to cancer two years prior. However, both men have their struggles and their shared stubbornness leads to conflict, with Caz prematurely closing himself off yet desperately seeking the acceptance of his father, who is still working through Caz's perceived rejection in failing to return home after his mother's passing.

Despite the difficulties involved in explaining sex, gender and selfhood in a town which rejects its reduction to medical terminology, Caz never once compromises on who he is. He is calm and self-assured as he tells people "the name's Caz now". When he reintroduces himself to those who knew him prior to his transition, he never once brings up his birth name, instead refering to himself as "Gerald's kid". Even as his birth name is used in an attempt to delegitimise who he is or to suggest a form of deceptiveness, the name is censored, further cementing his current self as authentic.

Warm and heartfelt thanks to its brilliant writing and stellar - and largely gender-diverse - cast, Rūrangi is a much-needed addition to the transgender community's lacking representation on screen, all wrapped up in five tight episodes. 

Rated M - Offensive language and suicide references

Rūrangi is now available for streaming at NZIFF at Home - Online.