Uproar Review

In 1981, the Springbok Tour took place in New Zealand, which caused protests and civil unrest for over a month. The Springbok Tour consisted of the South African rugby team, the Springboks, coming to New Zealand to play against various teams. Since the apartheid in South Africa mirrored what was going on in New Zealand, the New Zealanders did not want the team to play in their towns.

This is the backdrop of Uproar and through Josh, played beautifully by Julian Dennison, we experience the hardships of being a native to your land but being treated like an outsider. Josh lives with his mother, Shirley, played by Minnie Driver, and brother Jaime, played by James Rolleston. His brother is going through some issues and we learn about them as the movie progresses. Shirley works various jobs to keep the family afloat; one is working as a cleaning lady at Josh’s school, St. Gilberts.


At school, Josh is an outsider. He is the only Māori in the school, Josh is constantly picked on and spends his lunchtime in the library. Josh is approached by Mr. Madigan, brilliantly played by Rhys Darby, about joining his Drama club figuring it might be good for Josh. In the club, Madigan sees something in him and wants Josh to continue with this gift. Josh knows that his mother would disapprove of this and tries to keep it quiet from her. While this is happening, his older brother is asked to co-coach the school’s rugby team but one of his conditions is that Josh be added to the team too.

Josh’s story just gets more complex from here. He would love to do the acting thing with Madigan but knows his mother would not approve of it. He feels that playing rugby would gain him some respect and bring him closer to his brother. On top of all that, he is seeing the protest in his town about the upcoming rugby games and feels he should be a part of it but is unsure if he should. Josh’s life is complicated and these struggles of seeing where you belong is very relatable.


Uproar gives the viewer a beautiful look inside the life of a young boy who is an outsider on his land. Julian Dennison gives us a well-crafted portrayal of a young man who is lost and trying to find his way in his complicated world. Through his eyes, we see how a school that uses an old Māori phrase about being one family proves time and time again that the one family they praise is the family that is all the same color: white. The racism is not hidden from Josh and his family and it is sad to see how they are treated by others.

There are many heartfelt moments in this film and the performances really draw you in. Julian Dennison will have you laughing one minute and crying the next. Uproar is the kind of movie we need to see and will create great conversations with your family and friends.

Final Thoughts: Uproar is a beautiful film that shows the struggles of being a Māori kid in a segregated school. Julian Dennison gives a fantastic performance and pulls you into his struggle to find his voice and identity. Although it is being promoted as a comedy, this movie will have you wiping tears away and feeling for Josh, his family, and Mr.Madigan.

Kid-Friendly: Uproar is a great movie for kids due to the many different aspects of the story. Kids can relate to the feeling of being an outsider in their school and not knowing where they fit in. There is some crude language in the movie but the message of the movie outweighs the few curse words that are used. This movie could lead to great conversations in the household.

Violence: There is a scene in the movie depicting a protest and what happens when the protest breaks down. There are images of people being beaten with a baton. Some protesters are punched and kicked during this scene. 

In New Zealand, 1981, Josh Waaka is a 17-old square peg in the round, rugby-obsessed hole that is St Gilbert’s College. Meanwhile, the South African national rugby team, the Springboks, are touring New Zealand, sparking nationwide protests and dividing the country. Josh’s newfound passion for acting, as well as a greater awareness of his Māori heritage, sends him tumbling headlong into conflict where he is forced to either conform or stand up for himself, his whānau (family) and his future. Uproar is the funny and heartwarming story of a young man’s battle to find his true voice, set against the volatile backdrop of New Zealand’s fight for its national identity. 

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