The New Zealand Opening Ceremony of the Cricket World Cup helped correct and clarify everybody’s expectations and preconceptions of New Zealand. Think New Zealand is the home of highly skilled creatives and film directors capable of creating masterpieces like the Lord of the Rings? WRONG. Let’s leave aside the fact that we appear to have attempted to plagiarise whole scenes from the opening ceremony of the London Olympics, our filming of all of the above was even more unimaginative. Witness how the producers/directors kept making the camera swoop exactly the same away over the stage every few minutes, repeating the same shot endlessly as if to emphasise the fact that we, as a country, take great pride in our swooping cameras. Or the numerous poorly timed shots – ironic for a cricket tournament – that ruined almost every barely choreographed scene, most notably the ‘backyard cricket’ act where the bowler is shown to clearly not have an actual ball in his hand. Not to mention the fact that the default camera setting appeared to be to film quite a distance from the stage, the effect of which was to make the whole thing look like a cross between a live broadcast of Christmas in the Park and a high school cultural day performance.
Think New Zealand is a breeding ground for the world’s most best music that has the whole world dancing? NOPE. The producers seemed to have picked New Zealand’s most low-energy acts for the most high-energy occasion of the tournament. They’re all fine artists, but there’s a time and a place for everything. Just like you wouldn’t play un-remixed Frank Sinatra at a high-energy techno rave, so you wouldn’t/shouldn’t get the New Zealand Army marching band – or Shapeshifter for that matter – to perform at one either.
Think New Zealand is the home of great writing and writers like Eleanor Catton? NOPE. The script was so cheesy it almost made you wonder if it was intended as some understated reference to New Zealand’s dairy industry. The game of backyard cricket had one female character who placed great emphasis on asking if she could play, and one male character who placed great emphasis on his ‘yip’. This was then repeated a few minutes later in order to re-emphasise – or more correctly hit us over the heads with – the equality on display. Ironically enough, all of this at a tournament where women aren’t actually allowed to play anyway.
New Zealand is carrying headlines that people thought the ceremony was ‘mesmerising’, while actual tweets and messages on Facebook range all the way from calling it ’embarrassing’ to saying that nobody should complain because they probably couldn’t have done a better job if they’d been in charge. I really hope that last part isn’t true, I like think any New Zealander could have done a better job, and that the real New Zealand is more the one that wins Oscars and Grammys than the one that makes both literal and figurative failed ‘high fives’. Danny Boyle’s London Opening Ceremony set a new bar from what could be expected from relatively cash-strapped sports organising committees, while London wasn’t able to afford the huge synchronised set pieces and movements of Beijing, it could afford a sense of humour, personality, and a well-choreographed story. This should have been a big relief to New Zealand which has shown itself well capable of the above in other contexts, it’s just a bit of a shame we dropped the ball with this one.