In this March 2015 episode of long-running magazine-style show Tagata Pasifika, Sandra Kailahi explores the factors that lead some young pasifika mothers to abandon their newborns. Then hosts Marama T-Pole and Tom Natoealofa interview actor Teuila Blakely, who had her son at 17, about what it was like being a teenage mother, and what needs to change to support others in that situation. Also featured are stories about the Samoan King’s son converting to the Mormon faith, and allegations New Zealand has been conducting surveillance on its Pacific neighbours.
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.
At any one time between mid 1942 and mid 1944, between 15,000 and 45,000 US servicemen were camped in NZ preparing for, and recovering from, war in the Pacific. The marines brought colour and drama to the austerity of home front life. Fifty years later this TV documentary used interviews, reenactments and archive material to explore the “American invasion”. Sonja Davies recalls a Wellington street fight kicked off by a racist insult directed at Māori, and her wartime pregnancy and romance (1,500 marriages ensued from “when the Americans were here”).
A wandering fortune teller parks her house truck in Hokitika on a mission to find the daughter she gave up for adoption. This is Magik. One of her first clients, a young happily married chemist's assistant, is seeking a solution to her infertility. This is Rose. Magik, too, is resolved to have another child, but without having to keep the father around. They embark on a joint odyssey for love, sex and pregnancy in writer/director Vanessa Alexander’s feature debut (made when she was 28). David Stratton in Variety praised the film’s "disarmingly sweet treatment".
Made for the Plunket Society by the NFU, A Baby on the Way uses a blackboard and various experts in front of an antenatal class to provide birth education for early 70s Kiwi parents-to-be. Plunket Medical Director Neil Begg lowers his pipe to introduce the lessons, and contemporary advice for ensuring a mother’s health during pregnancy is given by doctors, nurses, and physios. The scenes involving breast massage and analgesics may have induced titters in school-aged audiences, unlike the brief-but-gory concluding birth (set to piped organ music).
Short film Letter for Hope is about a chance encounter of the best kind, at a point when there isn't much hope around. April Phillips (who also wrote the script) plays Jane, who must face the revelation that her pregnancy will be terminal. While trying to process the news, she encounters an old man (veteran actor Don Langridge) whose kindness and humanity will help in surprising ways. The self-funded short competed at multiple film festivals in the United States, and won an Honourable Mention at the 2014 Sarasota Film Festival.
This is the second of three documentaries made about Shelly West (Michelle Belesarius) who was crippled as a child by rheumatoid arthritis and blind from age 19. Against all odds — and medical advice — Shelly is pregnant; but she is all determination as doctors work through how her “tiny, twisted, little frame” will cope with the demands of pregnancy. An audience of 600,000 watched this doco with its compelling scenes as the cameras kept rolling while Shelly nearly died during childbirth, and her newborn daughter was whisked away to intensive care.
Framed by the distinctive burr of influential Scottish thinker RD Laing, this 1977 doco questions how the Western medical system handles childbirth: in Laing's view, "one of the disaster areas of our culture." Supported by arresting hospital footage and impassioned interviews with mothers, the film argues that women are often deliberately sidelined during the process of birth, and babies' needs ignored. Screenings in the UK and US saw it contributing to a debate about newborn care; one that remains ongoing. Birth won a Feltex award for best documentary.
Open House revolved around the ups and downs of a drop-in house run by Tony Van Der Berg (Frank Whitten, later Outrageous Fortune's Grandpa Ted). In this first episode there's money trouble, court trouble, domestics, a pregnant teenager and an abandoned baby ... but there's community spirit aplenty as the house's whānau prepares for its first birthday celebration, complete with Scottish brass band and Samoan drums. Tony's first lines to a raving old man on Petone Beach? "Good onya mate!". Features author Emily Perkins as Tony's idealistic stepdaughter.
Writer/director Tusi Tamasese won multiple awards for his first feature, the Samoan-set The Orator - O Le Tulafale. This New Zealand-set follow-up involves a Samoan father whose daughter Ilisa returns home, pregnant and badly beaten. In her movie debut, Frankie Adams (Shortland Street) plays Ilisa, and Uelese Petaia (star of Albert Wendt adaptation Sons for the Return Home) is the boxer turned baker, in a tale of family, revenge and redemption. One Thousand Ropes debuted in the Panorama section of the 2017 Berlin Film Festival, before opening in NZ and Samoa in March.