NZ On Screen's Pacific Collection celebrates many things — many islands, many cultures, and the many Pasifika creatives who have enriched Aotearoa, by bringing their stories to the screen. The collection is curated by Stephen Stehlin, whose involvement in flagship Pacific magazine show Tagata Pasifika goes back to its very first season. In his backgrounder, Stehlin touches on sovereignty, diversity, Polyfest and bro'Town — and the relationship between Pacific peoples and Māori in Aotearoa.
Sons for the Return Home tells the story of a Romeo and Juliet romance between students Sione, a NZ-raised Samoan, and Sarah, a middle class palagi. Director Paul Maunder shifts between time and setting (London, Wellington, Samoa) in adapting Albert Wendt's landmark 1973 novel. Sons was the first feature film attentive to Samoan experience in NZ — alongside themes of identity, racism and social and sexual consciousness. In this excerpt Sione meets Sarah's parents, and his tin'a has him scrubbing their Newtown pavement prior to Sarah's reciprocal visit.
The last novel by Taranaki author Ronald Hugh Morrieson revolves around a freezing plant worker (Peter McCauley) in an inter-racial marriage. The role of an English remittance man was expanded in a failed attempt to cast Peter O'Toole (the role ultimately went to NZ-born Bruce Spence). Morrieson's view of small town NZ is a dark one, as he explores racism, violence, murder, suicide and blackmail. Bruno Lawrence contributes to Jonathan Crayford's jazz-tinged score, and features in the wedding band. The freezing works scenes were shot at the defunct plant in Patea.
In this short film, Māori kaumātua Laly Haddon and his Pākehā wife Sharley are interviewed about their relationship to each other and the land. The couple’s kōrero ranges from computers and tapu places, to horse breeding and racism, and provides a lens through which love, biculturalism and belonging are explored. Cathy Macdonald’s film was part of international documentary Other Than, made up of 11 short films touching on the theme of diversity. A 2013 Washington Post review said Turangawaewae was “capable of great feeling”. Ngāti Wai leader Haddon died in Pakiri in July 2013.
Police drama Mortimer's Patch included a Māori sergeant (played by Don Selwyn) among its quartet of rural coppers, yet the series only rarely explored Māori topics. Penned by Greg McGee, this episode plots a small-town twist on questions of racism, abuse of privilege, and the horse-trading behind which cases go to court. After a theft at the local takeaways, one of a trio of young Māori reacts to the racist perpetrator — a Pākehā businessman — by breaking the law himself. The guest cast includes Frank Whitten (Outrageous Fortune), Selwyn Muru and Temuera Morrison, whose only line is "Honky. Smooth honky. Nasty".
This 2002 documentary explores contemporary Aotearoa from the perspective of Kiwis from a range of different (non-Māori, non-Pākehā) ethnic backgrounds. These citizens speak frankly about their experience of assimilation and stereotyping in a supposedly multicultural society, where ethnic food is beloved — but not ethnic difference — and where jokes and racism blur. Directed by Libby Hakaraia, the documentary screened on TV3 as part of doco slot Inside New Zealand. It was a follow up to 2000's The Truth about Māori, which looked at identity from a Māori perspective.
In the 1950s thousands of Pacific Islanders came to Aotearoa to meet a labour shortage. They faced racism, and in the 1970s, notorious dawn raids by police. In 1971 a group of young gang members and students set up the Polynesian Panthers to stand up for the rights of the Pasifika community. They ran food co-ops, homework centres, and lobbied for support services. In this Dan Salmon-directed documentary, presenter Nevak Rogers explores the inspirations, events (Bastion Point, Springbok Tour) and legacy of the movement co-founded by her uncle Will 'llolahia.
Illustrious Energy sees Chan and his older mate Kim prospecting for gold in 1890s Otago. Marooned until they can pay off their debts and return to China; they’ve been fruitlessly working their claim for 12 and 27 years respectively. Chan faces racism, isolation, extreme weather, threatening surveyors, opium dens and a circus romance. The renowned feature-directing debut of cinematographer Leon Narbey provides a poetic evocation of the Chinese settler experience; especially vivid are Central’s natural details — desolate schist and tussock lands, rasping crickets.
The last drama to be made in-house by TVNZ, The Champion was written by author Maurice Gee at the behest of producer Ginette McDonald after the success of their collaboration on The Fire-Raiser. Set in Henderson, West Auckland over three weeks in early 1943, it centres on 12 year old Rex (Milan Borich — later the lead singer in Pluto) and a black American GI billeted with his family. This tough, accomplished drama looks unflinchingly at racism and prejudice — both imported and local — and is ample testimony to the skills of its writer, cast and crew.
This episode of the six-part Our People, Our Century series explores the mix of cultures that Aotearoa-New Zealand has become. In these excerpts, a Chinese Kiwi family speaks of the racism they experienced, from the poll tax of the 1890s to their relative isolation — despite living in downtown Wellington. Artist Trevor Moffitt describes his father's “heavy silent disapproval” at his artwork; Moffitt went on receive acclaim for paintings that explore themes of New Zealand identity. Finally, mixed marriages between Māori and Pākehā shed some light on biculturalism.