Jim is a promising teenage boxer, training under the watch of his demanding and alcoholic father. When Jim develops a relationship with a male classmate, the two are forced to navigate isolation, homophobia, and the brutality of small-town life in New Zealand. As Jim discovers what it means to be gay, he realizes how little strength has to do with heroism.


CAST: Tim Roth, Jordan Oosterhof, Conan Hayes 

PUNCH was in development for many years, with writer and director Welby Ings having fought hard to bring it to life, as a commitment to his late partner, who held the national title in the triple jump but grew up in a small-town boxing family.Also serving as inspiration are the experiences of two gay boxers known to Ings, as well as a number of takatāpui tane (gay Māori men) with whom he currently works.Ings is a gay man who also grew up in, what he calls, “the wops”. “We drove to a small town for the big shop”. He has been actively involved in the pursuit and protection of gay rights and has been so since coming out when he was 20. In the 1980s he was arrested several times while campaigning for Homosexual law reform and he worked on the amendments to the Human Rights provisions of the 1990s. He was fired more than once for being an out gay man, and was beaten up on several occasions. He was a key organizer of the Auckland protests against the Victoria Sparaids and “the entrapment of gay men”. For instances like these, the gay community has never received an apology from police, even after homosexuality was decriminalized in 1986.A lifetime of experiences such as these has partially served as a political motivation for the film.In it, Welby has sought to show that just below the surface-the myth that diversity is adored and everything is rainbow flags is not true. For many young gay men, especially those who are gender diverse, attitudes, acceptance, and treatment, even after 35 years of law reform, are still toxic. This is especially true for isolated LGBTQ+ youth living away from metropolitan hubs. Being thrown out of families, marginalized in hyper-masculine sports, or told that being gay is not an issue anymore, are ongoing experiences. Welby Ings was illiterate until the age of 15. Although he is now a professor and supervises doctoral candidates from around the world, to this day, he uses drawings as a vital means of creative thinking. A reference to this is in the film’s opening and closing sequences that appear asa drawing on water stained paper.In this film, the gay bashing, the alcoholism, the local boxing fights, the silenced rapes, the tentative outreach of the medical profession, the transition from sex to love … to letting go, all happen. Such things are specific but universal. As a push back against a climate where being gay is now seen as relatively normalized, Welby used recent, true incidents to peel back the veneer to expose what can lie just below a surface. ButPUNCH is also two, interwoven love stories; one between a father and his son and the other between two young, New Zealand gay men. These characters are flawed, but despite their clumsy handling of relationships with each other, they are all in essence, good men.


“PUNCH has been in development for a long time, and I have never let go of the determination to bring it into the light. It sits in the context of recent films like Moonlight, where sexuality and bullying in a coming-of-age narrative are used to explore the vulnerability and beauty of the human condition. Although it is Jim’s story, this is really the story of anybody who has fought to find their place in the world, even when this means losing the things that keep you safe.PUNCH looks at love in an unusual way. It is essentially two connected love stories: one between a father and his son and the other between two young men. Jim, Stan, and Whetu are all flawed but despite their clumsy handling of relationships with each other, they are all good men.We feel for them and we want their lives to go in the right direction. When Whetu and Jim show us that they are free, that they have become strong and sensitive but separate men, our struggles with them and our hopes for them reach an unpredicted kind of triumph.


About the Author

Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.