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Series

An Immigrant Nation

Television, 1994–1996

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.

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Coming Home - Roger Donaldson & Steve Millen

Television, 1999 (Full Length Episode)

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.

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An Immigrant Nation - Hoots Mon, The Scots in New Zealand

Television, 1996 (Full Length Episode)

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. 

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An Immigrant Nation - Searching for Paradise

Television, 1996 (Full Length)

This episode of Immigrant Nation features former Holidaymakers guitarist Pati 'Albert' Umaga, part of the first generation of New Zealand-born Samoans. Umaga's parents arrived in Wellington in 1950 as part of Samoa's Great Migration. Encouraged to speak Samoan at home, and English outside the house, Umaga drifted away from his family and culture, before finally coming to the realisation that Fa-a Samoan - The Samoan Way - has much to offer him in how he operates in Kiwi society. Umaga goes on to use his music as a way to reach Samoan youth.

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An Immigrant Nation - A Little Piece of Deutschland

Television, 1996 (Full Length Episode)

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.

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An Immigrant Nation - The Footprints of the Dragon

Television, 1994 (Full Length)

Footprints of the Dragon examines immigration from China and Taiwan, through interviews with three families: the Kwoks, already into their fifth generation down under; and two families from Taiwan, who are far more recent arrivals. One woman is forced to return frequently to Taiwan, to earn money for the family. The documentary also examines discrimination against early Chinese migrants in the late 1800s, who were required to pay a 100 pound poll tax. The episode is directed by Listener film critic Helene Wong, herself a third-generation Chinese-New Zealander. 

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An Immigrant Nation - Just Slightly A People Apart

Television, 1994 (Full Length)

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.

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Long Lost Sons

Television, 2004 (Full Length)

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.

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An Immigrant Nation - From Sri Lanka with Sorrow

Television, 1996 (Full Length)

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.

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An Immigrant Nation - The Unbroken Thread

Television, 1994 (Full Length)

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.