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Sons for the Return Home

Film, 1979 (Excerpts)

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.

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Series

The Champion

Television, 1989

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.

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Tagata Pasifika - Second Migration

Television, 2015 (Full Length Episode)

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. 

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Our People Our Century - Being Kiwi

Television, 2000 (Excerpts)

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.

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Mortimer's Patch - Nothing Changed (Series Three, Episode Six)

Television, 1984 (Full Length Episode)

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".

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Turangawaewae - A Place to Stand

Short Film, 2012 (Full Length)

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.

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Chinks, Coconuts and Curry-munchers

Television, 2002 (Full Length)

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.

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Double Happy

Short Film, 2010 (Full Length)

This short film finds four 90s teenagers caught in the vicissitudes of growing up in Hutt Valley suburbia. Rising tensions during a day hanging out at the local park see misfit Rory 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 teen experiences; Double Happy screened at Montreal Film Festival and was a Short of the Week website pick in May 2011.

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Illustrious Energy

Film, 1988 (Excerpts)

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.

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Imagine the World is Ending

Web, 2016 (Full Length)

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.