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 theme for 2016’s batch of Loading Docs was 'change'. This entry stretches the boundaries of documentary, as two high school students engage in an impassioned piece of performance poetry. Mount Albert Grammar School's Jahmal Nightingale and Joseph McNamara film themselves performing their own poetic clarion call for change. The two Gen-Z teens wander Auckland and muse on body image, booze, racism, sexism, and the apocalypse. Director Brendan Withy and producer Doug Dillaman first saw the duo at high school spoken word competition WORD - The Front Line.
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.
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.
The 60s and 70s saw an influx of Pacific Island migrants to New Zealand. This 2015 Tagata Pasifika special looks at the children and grandchildren of those adventurers, who are part of a “second migration” — from Aotearoa to Australia. Reporter Sandra Kailahi talks to families about the reasons why they made “the jump” (education, jobs, opportunity, “a better life than what I had in South Auckland”); the challenges they faced (contract work, floods, racism); the trade-offs (lack of community and culture) — and why some chose to come back ‘home’ to New Zealand.
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.
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.
Every story in this popular TV2 reality show saw warring neighbours each give their side of a border dispute, before a well-known local tried to mediate. In this first season episode the affray is over Parakai willow trees, accused of blocking sun and busting sewer pipes (narrator Bill Kerton calls them the "herbaceous equivalent of herpes"). The mediator is Helensville MP John Key. Struggling to sit on the fence, and amid accusations of racism, the future Prime Minister is unable to forge a driveway détente: "sometimes people just don’t want to see eye to eye".
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.