Before turning to directing, Barry Barclay did more than five years training to become a priest. That experience surely percolates through his film Ashes, with its reflections on identity, spirituality and living (or feeling) apart from others. The film centres on the thoughts of four people: an artist, a woman struggling with her identity as a high achiever, an actor, and a priest. Are all of them acting, or only Sam Neill? The film features readings from Ash Wednesday, the poem written by TS Eliot after converting to anglicanism. Ashes screened on NZ television on 17 March 1975.
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.
Jane Sherning Warren’s satirical portrait of the artist as a young woman was one of a series of short films exploring life on the colourful K Road strip. Jaded Arlette (Morgan Albrecht) endures a barrage of art-speak as her posse saunters from her Artspace exhibition opening to Verona Cafe. When the ridiculous art theory of her partner leaves truth far behind, she challenges his cred, and a chase ensues. A drag queen with a pool cue comes to her rescue, and she (and the audience) get an unexpected lesson in how people's identity is a performance.
"How would your relationship with your best friend change if they were to change gender?" This is the intriguing proposition that led director Louise Leitch to make this 2016 Loading Doc. Best friends Neil (Leitch's husband) and Byron have been longtime climbing companions, but Byron’s shift from a male to female gender identity at 50 years old provides a challenge to their mateship that differs from any mountaineering obstacle. The mini documentary screened on SBS in Australia. The Spinoff’s Alex Casey called it a "moving, honest examination of an evolving friendship".
The concept of this short doco was to give its subjects the opportunity to tell their own stories straight to camera. Filmmakers Robyn Paterson and Paula Boock gave attendees of Auckland's annual Big Gay Out an invitation to go into a self-operated video booth, and answer the question ‘What does home mean to you?’. The candid results are snapshots of LGBT experiences and searches for identity and belonging. Queer Selfies featured on TV’s 20/20 and was made as part of Loading Docs, a series of three-minute long Kiwi films created for online distribution.
Auckland's Massive Company began in 1998 as a youth theatre group, committed to developing multicultural talent. Sons for the Road records a big moment in their evolution: performing at London's Royal Court Theatre, whose long history includes launching another piece of cross-cultural fertilisation, The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Their play is The Sons of Charlie Paora, a tale of rugby players and troubled male identity developed by Massive and UK writer Lennie James (who would later join the cast of hit The Walking Dead). The Independent called the play "wonderfully engaging".
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.
Tā Moko is a half hour documentary on Māori tattoo, including rare footage of internationally acclaimed Māori artist George Nuku getting a full-face moko via traditional tattooing techniques. The documentary follows the journey of Tā Moko from its use and status in traditional Māori culture, to its appropriation as gang insignia, and its revival as an expression of Māori identity and pride in the modern world. Directed by Kim Webby, Tā Moko screened on TVNZ, and was a finalist at the 2007 NZ Media Peace Awards.
When she made Mauri, Merata Mita became the first Māori woman to write and direct a dramatic feature. Mauri (meaning life force), is loosely set around a love triangle and explores cultural tensions, identity, and changing ways of life in a dwindling East Coast town. As with Barry Barclay film Ngāti, Mauri played a key role in the burgeoning Māori screen industry. The crew numbered 33 Māori and 20 Pākehā, including interns from Hawkes Bay wānanga. Kiwi art icon Ralph Hotere was production designer; the cast included Zac Wallace (star of Utu) and Māori activist Eva Rickard.
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.