This short documentary follows refugee Mitchell Pham from a Vietnam War prison camp to a new home in New Zealand. Director Sally Tran — a 2013 Killer Films Internship Scholarship recipient — uses an interview with Pham as an adult, and live action mixed with animation to recreate the harrowing childhood journey. DIY more than CGI, the animation process was based on Vietnamese folded paper-craft. Requiring 20 volunteers, the 10,000 animated pieces of paper (and a rich score from The Sound Room) provide suggestive weight to Pham’s story of survival and courage.
Open Door is a unique form of community-based television that allows groups or individuals to apply to make a documentary programme about an issue that concerns them. This episode focuses on Burundian refugees living in New Zealand and the importance of reuniting families separated by ethnic conflict in their home country. A number of refugees share their stories and explain the way their lives have changed since coming to New Zealand and the efforts they go to bringing other family members here.
Sixty-five years of life are condensed into three minutes in this 2016 Loading Doc, which profiles two pioneering kumara growers and Kiwi characters: Fay and Joe Gock. The Gocks were refugees from the Japanese invasion of China, who met in 1953. It was then illegal for Chinese to own land, but they went on to became the largest market gardeners in Mangere. In 2013 they won Horticulture New Zealand’s highest honour. Told as a poem, narrated by Ian Mune, the film was directed by commercials director and ex Cassandra's Ears bass player, Felicity Morgan-Rhind.
This 1944 newsreel documents arrivals at a Wellington wharf from the Middle East: New Zealand soldiers and Polish children. For the refugees it was the conclusion of an epic wartime survival tale: an exodus from Poland via Siberian labour camps, to being greeted by Prime Minister Peter Fraser in NZ. The Poles then take the train past waving crowds to their new home: a camp in Pahīatua. Twenty years later the children were revisited in Kathleen O’Brien’s classic 1966 documentary The Story of Seven-Hundred Polish Children.
This 1967 documentary tells the story of 734 Polish children who were adopted by New Zealand in 1944 as WWII refugees. Moving interviews, filmed 20 years later, document their harrowing exodus from Poland: via Siberian labour camps, malnutrition and death, to being greeted by PM Peter Fraser on arrival in NZ. From traumatic beginnings the film chronicles new lives (as builders, doctors, educators, and mothers) and ends with a family beach picnic. Made for television, this was one of the last productions directed by pioneering woman filmmaker Kathleen O'Brien.
Harold Beven reckons he’s the luckiest man to serve in the Second World War. Born in a village east of London, he saw plenty of action in the (UK) Royal Navy, but by his own admission, never got his feet wet. Joining up as soon as possible after the outbreak of war, Beven served in almost all the naval theatres. As a Chief Petty Officer, he was involved in the evacuations of Greece and Crete — and later the allied invasions of Sicily and Italy — as well as the D-Day invasion of France. At the age of 96, Beven remembers entire conversations as if it was yesterday.
This film tells the story of a group of Afghani refugees rescued from the high seas off Australia by the freighter, Tampa. It follows the fate of several boys who were given the chance of a fresh start in New Zealand. Deftly blending observational sequences and historical footage, Pacific Solution examines the socio-politicial context of a growing worldwide refugee crisis. It was filmed in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Australia, Nauru and New Zealand. Pacific Solution was screened by TVNZ and at festivals internationally.
Team Tibet tells the story of Thuten Kesang, who came to New Zealand in 1967, exiled from his Tibetan homeland, his family and his culture. Kesang was Aotearoa’s first Tibetan refugee. Filmed over 22 years by globetrotting filmmaker Robin Greenberg (Return of the Free China Junk), Kesang recounts his story, from his parents’ arrest in the wake of the 1959 uprising, to his advocacy for Tibetan environmental and political issues. He has become a point of contact for the global Tibetan community. The documentary was set to premiere at the 2017 NZ International Film Festival.
In this 2007 short, a young refugee boy is smuggled out of an unnamed European country. When he realises he and his companion are victims of people trafficking, he faces an untenable choice. Cargo was produced as director Leo Woodhead’s graduating film while completing a masters in film at Auckland University. A collaboration with Czech cinematographer Martin Priess led to a student exchange with FAMU in Prague and saw the film shot in the Czech Republic. It premiered at Venice Film Festival, before a successful (London, Tribeca, Telluride) festival run.
This documentary turns the lens on acclaimed photographer Andris Apse. The Latvian war refugee later joined the Forest Service, where he was inspired by lensman John Johns and Fiordland; a chance break taking scenic shots for Air New Zealand empowered Apse to pursue his passion: wilderness photography. From his Okarito home and in the wild, Apse muses on the rugged demands of capturing an image and the "stubborn determination" of his craft. From Time to National Geographic, his photos have helped define Aotearoa as a theatre country of epic, elemental landscapes.