NZ On Screen's Chinese in New Zealand Collection contains many pearls — from a run of impressive documentaries, to comedies and dramas that skewer stereotypes and explore relationships across cultures. Identity, family, colliding values and 19th century goldminers all make regular appearances, but they're only part of a far bigger story. Plus check out this backgrounder by Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon.
2010 was the Year of the Tiger and on the eve of the Chinese New Year, Asia Downunder roving reporter Bharat Jamnadas shows the strength of the Auckland Chinese community by visiting festivities held at two extremely well-attended events on the same day: ASB Showgrounds in Auckland and the TelstraClear Pacific Events Centre in Manukau. There are interviews with Chinese community leaders who discuss the long history of Chinese New Year celebrations in Auckland, and footage of event highlights, including the world famous Hunan acrobat troupe.
This episode of community-made show Open Door focuses on Chinese New Zealanders who are dealing with two identities: the Chinese values of their parents, and the country they live in. Andrew Young rebelled against the stricter ways of his parents, but gained a new perspective after travelling to China and witnessing the life they used to have. Wong Liu Shueng talks of having lived a "two-tiered life", but expresses regret for keeping her Chinese culture hidden. The people interviewed have embraced the positive aspects of two different cultures.
This 1972 documentary captures the pulse of Chinese in New Zealand — "a close-knit, traditionally minded community" concentrated in the cities. Reporter Geoff Walker briefly charts the history of Chinese immigrants, and racist policies spanning 50 years. Jock Hoe criticises New Zealand's immigration policy towards Chinese, and says older Chinese are walking more proudly as China stands on its feet again. Young Chinese-Kiwis reveal that romance with Europeans is possible, but uncommon. Also interviewed: businessman Thomas Doo and future writer Helene Wong.
This short film follows Vincent (Leighton Phair), a young Chinese-Kiwi rescued from a group of racist punks in a spacies parlour by a mysterious Asian (Gary Young), then drawn into a seedy Triad underworld. Vincent is struggling with his identity in a mixed race family. Directors Stuart McKenzie and Neil Pardington wrote the story with playwright Lynda Chanwai-Earle, drawing it from interviews with members of the Chinese community in Wellington and Christchurch. Early 90s Flying Nun bands feature on the score; DJ Mu (future Fat Freddys Drop frontman) cameos as a punk.
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.
This episode of Asia Downunder takes a look at the Chinese New Year. In the first segment, ‘Year of the Ox’, host Ling Ling Liang looks at how people born in this year are said to be strong and determined. She also examines traditional illustrations of oxen, and talks to the designers behind the NZ Post stamp series for the Year of the Ox. In the Lanterns for Sale segment, roving reporter Bharat Jamnadas visits the 10th annual Lantern Festival in Auckland's Albert Park, and talks to Barry Wah Lee, from longtime Asian goods emporium Wah Lees.
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.
The Otago goldrush in the 1860s attracted the first wave of Chinese immigrants to New Zealand. They were greeted with fear and suspicion from the white settler community. 130 years later the racist policies of late 19th century New Zealand are gone, but old attitudes linger. This 1993 Frontline report investigates the tension between older Chinese/Kiwi families and the growing number of first generation Chinese and Taiwanese immigrants. Whatever cultural issues divide them, both groups have experienced racism from Pākehā New Zealanders.
In 2001 Meng Foon was the only serving New Zealand mayor to speak fluent Māori and Cantonese — and that was still the case when this documentary was made in 2013. Foon campaigns for a fifth term as mayor of Gisborne, appearing on local radio shows, door knocking and travelling long distances to connect with locals in small towns. Foon and his family talk about their Chinese heritage, and Foon reveals a lesser-known musical talent. Foon cultivated a deep relationship with the large Māori community in the Tairāwhiti district. In 2019 he resigned after 18 years as mayor.