NZ On Screen's Pacific Collection celebrates many things — many islands, many cultures, and the many Pasifika creatives who have enriched Aotearoa, by bringing their stories to the screen. The collection is curated by Stephen Stehlin, whose involvement in flagship Pacific magazine show Tagata Pasifika goes back to its very first season. In his backgrounder, Stehlin touches on sovereignty, diversity, Polyfest and bro'Town — and the relationship between Pacific peoples and Māori in Aotearoa.
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.
This short film finds four 1990s teenagers caught up in the complications of growing up in Hutt Valley suburbia. Rising tensions during a day hanging out at the local park see misfit Rory (Riley Brophy) ignite a cracker bag of cravings for belonging, furtive sexual feelings, violence, racism and boredom. The combustive results of his misdirected teen spirit give the film’s title a grim irony. Fijian-born director Shahir Daud based the story loosely on his own experiences as a teen. Double Happy screened at the Montreal Film Festival and was a Short of the Week website pick in May 2011.
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".
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.
A Political Game charts not only intense rugby rivalry between South Africa and New Zealand, but also the politics of racism that came increasingly to the fore. The signs were there during the Springboks first tour of New Zealand in 1921: a South African reporter was outraged white New Zealanders had supported a Māori side. In 1976 an All Black tour of South Africa sparked an African boycott of the Montreal Olympics; the 1981 tour saw violent protests. Starting with the historic All Blacks win in 1996, this excerpt jumps back in time to chart conflicts on and off the field, up until 1949.
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.
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.
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.