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‘The Dark Horse’ chronicles getting back into the game – of life

“The Dark Horse” (2014 production, 2016 release). Cast: Cliff Curtis, James Rolleston, Kirk Torrance, Miriama McDowell, Wayne Hapi, James Napier Robertson, Niwa Whatuira, Shaden Te Huna, Dante Nathuran. Director: James Napier Robertson. Screenplay: James Napier Robertson. Short Film Source Material: Jim Marbrook, “Dark Horse” (2003). Web site. Trailer.

Battling our personal demons can be quite a challenge. It may even land us in debilitating circumstances that require us to struggle to find our way back. Such a descent can be especially hard when it involves someone who has attained success only to see it slip away. So it was for a fallen chess champion combating a host of issues in the inspiring new biopic from New Zealand, “The Dark Horse.”

Genesis Potini (1963-2011) (Cliff Curtis), a Maori tribesman who became a seemingly unlikely chess master (which earned him the fitting nickname “the dark horse”), may know the intricacies of the game he loves, but he has considerable trouble managing the affairs of his life. In part that’s due to his battle with bipolar disorder. But there’s more to it than that, namely, his impoverished background and troubled family life. That becomes all too apparent when he’s released from a psych ward and left in the care of his long-estranged brother, Ariki (Wayne Hapi), a gang member and the irresponsible father of a teenage son, Mana (James Rolleston).

Genesis realizes he needs something to ground him in his life if he’s to carry on. He knows he won’t find it through his brother and his violent lifestyle, so he returns to what he knows best – the game at which he excels. He thus becomes coach of the Eastern Knights, a chess club for underprivileged children organized by his friend, Noble (Kirk Torrance). He also hopes the club will provide a healthy alternative for his nephew, but coaxing Mana away from his father proves problematic and reignites the lifelong animosity between the brothers. Through it all, though, Genesis endeavors to bounce back and bring meaning not only to his life, but also to that of others.

Battling one’s way back to stability and peace of mind while ensconced in the depths of despair, depression and confusion is quite an ordeal. Many times we can’t see a way out, let alone be able to perceive where we hope to end up. But, for those who are able to successfully make use of the conscious creation process – the means by which we manifest the reality we experience through our thoughts, beliefs and intents – there’s a possibility to transform those circumstances for the better.

Whenever we employ this process, we use our beliefs as a springboard to project our innermost thoughts and intents from the realm of the intangible into the world of the physically manifest. Much of the time we do this without even thinking. However, when we consciously seek to create what we’re musing about, we can produce astounding results, yielding outcomes that meet or exceed our expectations. And this can prove tremendously helpful for those looking to transform their circumstances, especially those, like Genesis, who need to turn their lives around.

The key in this is being able to envision the results we want to achieve. It provides us with an anchor, an objective to strive for, in our manifestation efforts. Projected outcomes will naturally vary from individual to individual, depending on what is being sought. But, for those who seek to establish a solid foothold in a grounded new reality, this practice can be particularly useful.

Unlike many of us, Genesis has an advantage when it comes to his envisioning skills. Because he’s a chess master, a game based on a seemingly infinite range of possible moves, he’s able to envision multiple probabilities for manifesting a desired outcome. In fact, ironically enough, that’s likely why he turns to chess itself as a means for finding his way out of his adversity. Since the game has familiarized him with the need to focus on his moves to realize his goal, he has ready access to a transferrable skill that he can employ in his larger life. By adopting beliefs commensurate with this ability, he thus has a strategy for seeing his way clear.

Interestingly enough, Genesis is able to take this concept and turn it around when teaching the game to his students. By making analogies between life and chess, he’s able to show his protégés how to play the game by drawing from life experience as an example. This approach proves particularly useful when he references mythological Maori stories to convey gamesmanship concepts and strategies to the many native members of the Eastern Knights.

Being able to picture multiple outcomes helps Genesis avoid further difficulties. For example, after his release from the psych ward, he clearly sees that following in Ariki’s footsteps won’t help him get his life back on track. In addition to the inherent dangers of his brother’s lifestyle, Genesis is well aware of Ariki’s innately negative world view, an outlook that he was able to see even when the brothers were youngsters (Shaden Te Huna, Dante Nathuran). Because of that awareness, Genesis is able to quickly rule out that problematic path and find a course of his own.

Genesis is also fortunate to possess a strong sense of personal integrity. Despite his mental state, he has a well-defined sense of what’s right and wrong, and he never hesitates to act on his convictions, something reflected in his character and actions. This, too, helps him to define what he wants to pursue and to make use of those insights in his envisioning practices. It also enables him to fend off the efforts of others who may try to impose their views on him; he knows what’s best for himself, despite what others might say to him – and who erroneously claim to have his best interests at heart.

Of course, the ability to envision multiple probabilities can be a dual-edged sword. Having so many options to choose from can be overwhelming, perhaps making it difficult to choose which path to follow. This may be something that comes with the territory for chess players, given their preoccupation for assessing moves and their associated consequences. It appears to have affected chess master Bobby Fischer, as depicted in the biopic “Pawn Sacrifice” (2015), and it may have contributed to Genesis’s life experience as well. It could even offer a possible explanation for his bipolar condition and why he created those aforementioned personal demons in the first place. Taming that tendency and adjusting the beliefs related to it may be necessary to avoid this manifestation pitfall.

Nevertheless, in the manner of a true conscious creation practitioner, Genesis is able to bring about a positive outcome for himself, and his influence rubs off on others, providing them with better lives as well. This is a prime example of the concept of value fulfillment, the principle of living our lives as our best truest selves for our own benefit and the betterment of those around us. Even though some might contend we’re simply talking about a game here, it’s ultimately much more than that. It offers a new beginning not only for Genesis, but also for those who learned from him and looked up to the example he set, both as a chess player and as a human being.

Despite intermittent pacing issues and some annoying sound quality problems during the first 30 minutes, “The Dark Horse” delivers on all other fronts, with superb performances from its excellent ensemble cast (especially Curtis) and a nuanced script that tackles its complex story line on multiple levels. This heartrending release is an inspiring tale for more than just fans of the game. The film is currently playing in theaters specializing in independent cinema.

Bringing oneself back from a dark and scary place is undoubtedly quite a challenge, one of the most difficult tasks many of us will ever undertake. And, while we’re embroiled in such circumstances, it may seem like we’ll never recover from them. But a rebirth is indeed possible if we set our mind to it. As this heroic story illustrates, the “genesis” of a new idea truly can emerge when we picture it and allow it, offering a fresh start to get back into the game of life.

Copyright © 2016, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

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