Chinese-Kiwi Roseanne Liang first made a splash with 2005 documentary Banana in a Nutshell, based on her own romance with a European Kiwi. Later she turned her experiences into acclaimed big screen rom-com My Wedding and Other Secrets. After making five seasons of web series Flat3/Friday Night Bites, Liang was confirmed to direct a feature-length version of her high profile action short, Do No Harm.
It takes a person outside of culture to really see it for what it is, and I get the best of both worlds. I get to take from everything and then maybe mush it together in a way that has never been seen before... Roseanne, on how being a Chinese-New Zealander is a blessing, in her interview for 2019 TV series Funny As: The Story of New Zealand Comedyew
Funny As traces the history of New Zealand comedy through archive footage, and extensive interviews with local comedy talent. Debuting on TVNZ 1 in July 2019, the five-part series explores how Kiwis "have used comedy to navigate decades of profound cultural change". Funny As touches on everything from live and musical comedy, to pioneers of Kiwi screen humour (e.g. Fred Dagg, Lynn of Tawa) and the hit exports of later years (Flight of the Conchords, Rose Matafeo). The series was made by production/creative agency Augusto, and produced by comedy veteran Paul Horan.
Medicine meets martial arts in this short film from director Roseanne Liang (My Wedding and Other Secrets). A resolute surgeon (American-born Chinese actor Marsha Yuan) is forced to break her physician’s oath after gangsters barge into her theatre, and interrupt an operation on a mysterious patient. Kiwi stuntman and actor Jacob Tomuri co-stars as the lead gangster. The bloody action film won attention on the international festival circuit (including the Sundance Film Festival). Soon after Liang signed to direct a feature-length version of the story.
Talking to your father about his sex life is possibly the most awkward conversation anyone could have. Director Chye-Ling Huang took on this eye-opening task while interviewing eight Asian men about sex, for this Loading Doc short documentary. Huang aims to challenge negative stereotypes of Asian males. Comedian/writer James Roque explains: "All the stereotypes that I encounter as an Asian guy are things like that I’m sexually or romantically inept, or that I’m like a nerd." Actor Yosan An, future star of Niki Caro's live action version of Mulan, is among those featured.
A trio of mysteriously bloody and bruised women order tea in a cafe in Auckland's St Kevin's Arcade. The sugar debate gets a K Road twist as they talk boobs, revenge porn, and wonder if the sugar bowl has drugs hidden in it (riffing off a local urban legend). A trip to the toilet before last orders sees the cafe transforming into a dance floor, providing a groovy testimonial to the imaginative powers of the sugar hit. This edition of the series of short films exploring life on K’ Rd was directed by Roseanne Liang (My Wedding and Other Secrets), and stars the actors from her web series Flat3.
The Dark Horse is the story of a Māori ex-speed chess champ who must “overcome prejudice and violence in the battle to save his struggling chess club, his family and ultimately, himself”. Genesis Potini has a bi-polar disorder; his nephew Mana (Boy’s James Rolleston) faces being pressed into a gang. A near unrecognisable Cliff Curtis won international acclaim as Potini. James Napier Robertson's acclaimed second feature was picked to opened the 2014 Auckland and Wellington Film Festival, and scored six Moa awards, including Best Picture, Director, Actor and Supporting Actor.
Described by co-star Neill Rea as the "little show that could", The Brokenwood Mysteries has screened in over 15 countries and and involved a long run of fictional murders. Each feature-length episode of this Prime TV crime drama is a standalone murder mystery, set in a small Kiwi town. Neill Rea (Scarfies) stars as veteran detective Mike Shepherd, who works alongside Detective Kristin Sims (played by Fern Sutherland from The Almighty Johnsons). Backing up the pair are Detective Sam Breen (Nic Sampson from Funny Girls) and Russian pathologist Gina Kadinsky (Cristina Ionda).
A lack of roles for Asian women inspired three Chinese-Kiwi actors to create a comedy web series starring themselves. JJ Fong, Perlina Lau and Ally Xue play flatmates in Flat3. Roseanne Liang (My Wedding and Other Secrets) directs and writes. In this third season, Perlina is pursued by two ex-boyfriends, "slutty" Jessica struggles to stay on a "no guys diet", while reserved Lee gets swept up by nude model Dan (Dan Cowley). Madeleine Sami (The Breaker Upperers) features as an arrogant acting teacher, while Shavaughn Ruakere (Shortland Street) is a pushy saleswoman.
Comedian (and rooster) Oscar Kightley fronts this 2013 beginner’s guide to the Chinese zodiac. His mission: to explore the 12 oriental star signs. As the Kiwi population heads towards one in six being of Asian origin, Kightley surveys a cavalcade of contemporary Kiwi personalities for their views on stargazing, from his Harry co-star Sam Neill to lawyer Mai Chen. This excerpt is a potted history of the oriental zodiac, aided by animation; then it's enter the dragon. Made for TV3’s Inside New Zealand documentary strand it was directed by bro’Town creator Elizabeth Mitchell.
Tired of being portrayed as "the shy one, the dragon lady or the prostitute", three Chinese-Kiwi female actors turned the tables and starred in their own web series. JJ Fong, Perlina Lau and Ally Xue teamed with director Roseanne Liang (My Wedding And Other Secrets) to create flatmates comedy Flat3. It began in 2013 on the smell of an oily rag. A Kickstarter campaign raised $10,000 for the second season, then NZ On Air put $100,000 into the third. Guests included Rose Matafeo and Madeleine Sami. Flat3's three stars (and Liang) returned for 2016's Friday Night Bites.
Emily Chu (award-winner Michelle Ang) is a young ‘banana’ (yellow on the outside, white on the inside) hoping to conceal a cross-cultural romance from her prudish Chinese parents in this romantic dramedy. Director Roseanne Liang’s feature debut draws on her autobiographical ‘video diary’ Banana in a Nutshell, which screened at the 2005 NZ International Film Festival. In the audience was producer John Barnett, who immediately offered to fund an adaptation. On its March 2010 release My Wedding gained several five star reviews, and strong box office.
Ingeniously unfolding three tales in unison, Take 3 follows a trio of young asian-Kiwi actors on one horrifying day of auditions. Director Roseanne Liang (My Wedding and Other Secrets) mines comedy from the competitive, cookie-cutter world of casting, while questioning the way minority actors are asked to perpetuate old-fashioned stereotypes. The stars are My Wedding lead Michelle Ang, Katlyn Wong (comedy A Thousand Apologies), and Li Ming Hu (Shortland Street doctor Li Mei Chen). Take 3 won special mention in the Generation 14plus section at Berlin film fest.
When Malay-Chinese immigrant Bernadine Lim was a child, her teacher made her walk around the classroom so the kids could feel how different her head was. The reporter turned director returns to the screen for this 2007 documentary, to talk to other Kiwi Chinese — including musician Chong Nee and playwright Lynda Chanwai-Earle — about their experiences growing up visually and culturally different. Lim also talks to historians about the racism Chinese men encountered when they flocked to Otago goldfields in the 1800s, including having to pay a poll tax.
Roseanne Liang's documentary Banana in a Nutshell tells the story of her romance with Stephen Harris. After falling in love at university, everything seemed perfect for the pair. Enter Liang’s traditional Chinese parents, and suddenly the prospect of her marriage to a Pākehā got a lot more complicated. In this excerpt, Liang guides viewers through her childhood, romance, and threatened disownment by her parents. Liang added an extended epilogue when her award-winning film hit DVD. The couple's story was later fictionalised for Liang’s 2011 feature My Wedding and Other Secrets.
Being Eve was a popular and self-aware comedy-drama for teens. It launched the career of actor Fleur Saville, who played 15-year-old teen anthropologist Eve. This excerpt from episode 22 of series two sees angst and ambition collide, as Eve dreams of Hollywood success via a school Shakespeare production. Shakespeare himself makes a cameo (as Eve's muse), while she struggles with her original vision for the classic. But will she be upstaged by Sam? The series later won best drama at the 2005 NZ Screen Awards, and fostered young directing and producing talent.
Shortland Street is a fast-paced serial drama set in an inner city Auckland hospital. The long-running South Pacific Pictures production is based around the births, deaths and marriages of the hospital's staff and patients. It screens on TVNZ’s TV2 network five days a week. In 2017 the show was set to celebrate its 25th anniversary, making it New Zealand’s longest running drama by far. Characters and lines from the show have entered the culture — starting with “you’re not in Guatemala now, Dr Ropata!” in the very first episode. Mihi Murray writes about Shortland Street here.