A Northland school teacher has one of the lead roles in a new movie celebrating Bob Marley and life in 1970s New Zealand - alongside big names such as Australian Idol winner Stan Walker, veteran actor Temuera Morrison and the ''Ghost Chips guy''.
Mt Zion follows four young Maori men as they dream of escaping their Pukekohe potato farm to play support for Bob Marley's 1979 tour of New Zealand. The movie opens nationwide on Bob Marley's birthday, which also happens to be Waitangi Day.
Troy Kingi, a music teacher and kapa haka tutor at Kerikeri High School, was shoulder-tapped by director Tearepa Kahi for the auditions and cast in the role of Hone, older brother of lead character Turei (played by Stan Walker).
When the brothers aren't digging potatoes they play in a band called Small Axe with David Wikaira-Paul (Tama from Shortland St) and Darcy-Ray Flavell-Hudson (the Ghost Chips guy).
Turei is determined to win the auditions to play as Bob Marley's support band at Western Springs, but his potato contractor father (Temuera Morrison) has little time for reggae or other frivolities.
Mr Kingi said the movie revolved around the boys' conflict with their father.
''He's a man of the land. His philosophy is that you've got to work hard in this world, there's no time for dreams.''
The 28-year-old said he hadn't acted since playing the lead role in a school production of Dracula Spectacular in 2002. However, he was able to draw on his experience of performing in front of 10,000-strong crowds at the kapa haka nationals as well as filming video clips to promote his own songs.
Mr Kingi and the rest of the crew lived on location in Pukekohe, a market garden area south of Auckland, for three months last year. The filming took place in a potato field and the director's grandmother's house, which had been kitted out in authentic 1970s style.
''I really enjoyed it. It could have been overwhelming but the advice I got was just to be myself, keep it natural and try not to over-think it. So what you see is just me, I'm not acting.''
As a first-timer Mr Kingi didn't know what to expect but the more seasoned actors told him it wasn't like other movies. With its mostly Maori cast and crew, the atmosphere on set was more family get-together than workplace.
''It didn't feel like work,'' he said.
Mr Kingi said Mt Zion would appeal to anyone who remembered the 1970s but the younger generation would also find it funny.
''It's the way we were, they way we spoke and the way you respected your elders. It's definitely got an old-school, 1970s vibe.''
Mr Kingi said he hadn't always been a big Bob Marley fan.
''But when I got into writing songs myself and started picking apart his songs, I realised every one has a massive hook - but he makes them sound so easy. He's a genius.''
The former dive instructor, who is of Te Arawa descent, lives in Kerikeri with his wife and three children. As well as teaching he travels to Te Kaha, near East Cape, every weekend to practice for Te Matatini (the kapa haka nationals) and is studying for a BA in Maori Arts. He has a five-track EP of his own songs due out in March.
The cast will see Mt Zion for the first time on February 3 followed by a red-carpet screening in Manukau on February 4. It will screen at Kerikeri's Cathay Cinemas on February 5, a sold-out fundraiser for an anchor-stone sculpture at Te Tii's Whitiora Marae, and open for general release on February 6.