This seven-part documentary series examines New Zealand as a nation of migrants. The original idea behind the show was to concentrate on upbeat personal stories. But many of the completed episodes go wider, balancing modern day interviews with a broader historical view of each group's immigrant experience down under. Immigrant Nation saw camera crews travelling to Europe, China, Sri Lanka and Samoa. Stories of escape, longing and prejudice are common - along with a feeling of having a foot in two worlds. An Immigrant Nation screened on TV One.
The Wellington seaside suburb of Island Bay is sometimes called Little Italy, thanks to the many Italians who have moved there. This episode of Immigrant Nation is based on interviews with Italian migrants to the suburb — from the woman who remembers the time during World War II when locals stopped talking to her, to the young man feeling "a magnetic pull" back to Italy. Although Italian fishing boats are now rarely seen in Island Bay, old traditions live on; and one woman talks about the responsibility of carrying on Italian traditions and culture into the future.
Bagpipes, haggis, and the heartbreak of leaving home; Hoots Mon examines those who have migrated from Scotland to Aotearoa. In the 1840s a group of Scots settlers started a new life in Dunedin, after breaking off from the Church of Scotland. Ayrshire-born director John Bates talks to some of their descendants, and heads to the far north to interview others with Caledonian roots, in Waipu. Alongside some impressive Richard Long camerawork, the interviews include composer Steve McDonald, whose ancestral research has inspired several Celtic-themed albums.
"My life is here, but my soul is there." So says immigrant Maria Stanisich in this look at NZ's Dalmatian community which, after more than a century down under, maintains a strong connection to its European homeland. Using interviews with a range of people, this episode examines the history of those arriving in New Zealand from the Dalmatian area of the Adriatic, now Croatia. Many worked on the gumfields, where discriminatory laws favoured British subjects; some formed relationships with local Māori, before bringing proxy wives over from Europe.
The Lorenz family have been making wine in southern Germany for 300 years. This documentary centres on winemaker Almuth Lorenz, who in 1982 left the family estate in Germany's Rheinhessen wine region to start a new life in Marlborough. Grapes had been grown in Rheinhessen for centuries; but in Marlborough, there is more chance to experiment. As this episode reveals, German settlers have been arriving in Marlborough since the 1840s. We also meet other more recent German immigrants: a young family, and a man attracted to the freedom and beauty of Golden Bay.
Soldiers, rubber bullets and an uncertain future: for the McKenna family, memories of life back in hometown Belfast are hardly rose-tinted. Made shortly before the Good Friday agreement radically altered Northern Ireland’s political landscape, this Immigrant Nation episode opens with Irish expats Mick McKenna and mother Mary. In between making rebel music in Wellington, Mick returns to Belfast and recalls an environment that bred violence. Meanwhile presenter Teresa O’Connor (cousin of West Coast MP Damien O’Connor) delves into her own part-Irish ancestry and identity.
"A social satire about an entire Antipodean generation, comfortable with what it knows best." London, 1983. It's time for a party. A group of young New Zealanders have arrived at the other end of the world to drink, play Kiwi music, search for shelter, and talk about other New Zealanders. Scripted by playwright Fiona Bartlett, this ambitious OE story plays out in one single ten minute shot (Three takes were printed). Director Jonathan Brough later directed episodes of Outrageous Fortune, The Pretender and short film No Ordinary Sun.
In 1983, after riots in Sri Lanka ushered in an extended civil war, the number of arrivals from Sri Lanka to New Zealand rose dramatically. This episode, one of the most moving in the Immigrant Nation series, profiles two Sri Lankan families down under - one from the island's Sinhalese majority, one from the minority Tamils. Both families left home out of fear for their children's future. Amidst the challenge of a new culture, there is celebration too: including double marriage ceremonies which require multiple outfits, when a Tamal Christian marries a Hindu.
Film director Roger Donaldson and motor racing legend Steve Millen both began making their mark in New Zealand, before making the move to California. The first Coming Home episode sees them at work in the USA, and visiting old haunts in Aotearoa. Donaldson shoots the effects-heavy Dante's Peak and prepares $100 million thriller Thirteen Days, while Millen hits the race track, in-between running his custom car parts company. Later he returns to the farm near Auckland, where his need for speed began on the family tractor. Donaldson heads to Auckland and Queenstown.
Raised in New Zealand by parents from Tokelau, What Now? presenter Jason Fa'afoi and his brother, reporter (and future MP) Kris have made their Wellington digs a Tokelau music free zone. In this documentary they join their parents and sister on a life-changing journey home. Aged 12, Dad Amosa was one of the first locals awarded a scholarship to be educated in NZ. Mother Metita left as part of a major resettlement plan. Neither has returned to Tokelau in 35 years. The Dominion-Post called the result “a great little documentary”; The Press rated it the best NZ documentary of 2004.