'No 8 wire' Kiwi ingenuity is defined by problem solving from few resources (No 8 wire is fencing wire that can be adapted to many uses, an ability that was particularly handy for isolated NZ settlers). Embodied in heroes from Richard Pearse to PJ, Kiwi ingenuity is a quality dear to our national sense of self. It has been memorably celebrated, and sometimes satirised, on screen.
NZ On Screen's Chinese in New Zealand Collection contains many pearls — from a run of impressive documentaries, to comedies and dramas that skewer stereotypes and explore relationships across cultures. Identity, family, colliding values and 19th century goldminers all make regular appearances, but they're only part of a far bigger story. Plus check out this backgrounder by Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon.
From the icons (Sky Tower, Otara Market, Rangitoto, The Bridge), celebs, clans and stereotypes (Jafas), to the streets (Queen St, K Road), and Super City suburbs (Ferndale, Mt Raskill, Morningside), this collection celebrates Auckland onscreen. Reel through the moods and the multicultural, metro, muggy charms of New Zealand’s largest city. In this backgrounder, No. 2 director Toa Fraser writes about Auckland as a place of myth, diversity and broken jaws.
Talking to your father about his sex life is possibly the most awkward conversation anyone could have. Director Chye-Ling Huang took on this eye-opening task while interviewing eight Asian men about sex, for this Loading Doc short documentary. Huang aims to challenge negative stereotypes of Asian males. Comedian/writer James Roque explains: "All the stereotypes that I encounter as an Asian guy are things like that I’m sexually or romantically inept, or that I’m like a nerd." Actor Yosan An, future star of Niki Caro's live action version of Mulan, is among those featured.
A homage to Dusky Maiden images as well as a playful take on the low art of velvet painting, Sima Urale’s Velvet Dreams provides a tongue-in-cheek exploration of Pacific Island stereotypes. Part detective story, part documentary, an unseen narrator goes in search of a painting of a Polynesian princess that he has fallen in love with. Along the way he meets artists, fans and critics of the kitsch art genre, as well as the mysterious Gauguin-like figure of Charlie McPhee. Made for TVNZ's Work of Art series, Velvet Dreams played in multiple international film festivals.
This Loose Enz edition sees ambitious young TV ad-man Gary (Rex Merrie) attempt to climb the corporate ladder. His pitch to his old school superiors at a dinner party involves patronising a burgeoning Polynesian market. Open-neck shirts, wide lapels and gold chains represent the aspirational early 80s and bow ties and tartare sauce mark the Rotarian generation of Kiwi Mad Men. When wife Jenny (Alice Fraser) decides to be heard as well as seen, Gary finds his gender stereotypes challenged as much as his business sense. The gabby teleplay was written by Vincent O'Sullivan.
Ingeniously unfolding three tales in unison, Take 3 follows a trio of young asian-Kiwi actors on one horrifying day of auditions. Director Roseanne Liang (My Wedding and Other Secrets) mines comedy from the competitive, cookie-cutter world of casting, while questioning the way minority actors are asked to perpetuate old-fashioned stereotypes. The stars are My Wedding lead Michelle Ang, Katlyn Wong (comedy A Thousand Apologies), and Li Ming Hu (Shortland Street doctor Li Mei Chen). Take 3 won special mention in the Generation 14plus section at Berlin film fest.
This pirates of the South Seas tale stars Tommy Lee Jones (Men in Black, The Fugitive) as rogue Bully Hayes, who helps a missionary save his kidnapped-by-savages wife. Produced by Kiwis Rob Whitehouse and Lloyd Phillips (12 Monkeys, Inglorious Basterds), the film was made in the 80s ‘tax-break’ feature surge and filmed in Fiji and New Zealand (with an NZ crew and supporting cast). John Hughes (Breakfast Club) and David Odell (Dark Crystal) scripted the old-fashioned swashbuckler from a Phillips story. It was released by Paramount in the US as Nate and Hayes.
The Otago goldrush in the 1860s attracted the first wave of Chinese immigrants to New Zealand. They were greeted with fear and suspicion from the white settler community. 130 years later the racist policies of late 19th century New Zealand are gone, but old attitudes linger. This 1993 Frontline report investigates the tension between older Chinese/Kiwi families and the growing number of first generation Chinese and Taiwanese immigrants. Whatever cultural issues divide them, both groups have experienced racism from Pākehā New Zealanders.
In this documentary, writer and adopted Cantabrian Joe Bennett explores the north/south divide, where the dividing line is the Bombay Hills — Jafa being an acronym for a somewhat impolite term for Aucklanders. Bennett is in sparkling form, mischievously stirring the pot of regional prejudice as he travels the country, asking exactly what non-Aucklanders think about the inhabitants of the City of Sails. The deep south has never looked so hardy, cold or desolate; meanwhile the congested motorways of Auckland appear to be paved with lattes and cellphones.