Director Chye-Ling Huang: Being Truthful to Asian Stories

By Nidha Khan

Your task: Name at least 10 current mainstream Asian film or T.V. characters who aren’t the “nerdy best friend, silent kung-fu master, tech whiz in the office.”

Struggling?

It’s probably because there aren’t that many.

Now, given the growing online buzz around ‘representation’ and how it affects different ethnic communities, the next logical questions to ask are: How does this depiction of Asian men filter down into the everyday lives of young Asian men? And if sex, love, and dating are “universal human experiences, where is the real talk when it comes to Asian men?” These are the questions which director Chye-Ling Huang seeks to answer in her recent short film, Asian Men Talk About Sex, where eight Asian men speak candidly about love, sex, and dating in NZ.

Being able to represent Asian stories in really truthful ways and against stereotypes is a cause that Huang actively fights for through the theatre she co-founded in 2013 – and still runs – called Proudly Asian Theatre. But, this year, she decided to also venture into filmmaking as part of the Loading Docs initiative. In her film, she focuses solely on the experiences of Asian men since there aren’t any or enough of them in NZ media. There’s a need to create narratives which aren’t de-sexualising or emasculating, but just showcase a bunch of everyday, regular Asian guys, because that’s what they deserve.

It’s been a hard conversation to begin in NZ since we’re pretty stifled in our emotions. Huang’s found that people don’t tend to think about the current links between race, love, dating, and sex if they aren’t affected, and that men in particular don’t open up and talk to each other. Even when she’s spoken to her male Asian friends, they’ve never considered it. Mainly, it’s because they don’t want to. They’re forced to live with these stereotypes all the time and it’s not an area they enjoy delving into.

“It’s the classic NZ thing that we aren’t very open. It’s definitely a part of the NZ cultural soup that makes us feel shameful to talk about anything in the open. We don’t celebrate openness, we celebrate stoicism and a quiet confidence, like the All Blacks. Being vulnerable and open is not something NZ is very good at and of course, to have conversations about sex, you need to be both vulnerable and open.” – Chye Ling Huang

When she first began creating the film, the reaction from the people around her was “really mixed.” It took people a while to wrap their heads around it and they generally went through phases of shock, then surprise, and then curiosity. But, overall, it’s opened up a lot of dialogue for the people in her life. Even a month before the film’s release, people would approach her with various questions: Why are you making this? What’s the film really about? What are these concepts?

Being able to create these open conversations, spaces, and communities is what Huang’s found rewarding and enlightening. She feels that she’s gained a better understanding about the nuances of what it’s like to be an Asian guy in NZ, male sexuality in general, how different it is for men and women in terms of learning about sex, and the filmmaking process.

“There’s a lot of insidious things that happen that are really subtle, which I think is today’s brand of racism in NZ. The way that racism presents itself now is a lot of micro-aggressions… Some men would also say things like, “I would be swiping on Tinder and I would be like, she’s white, she’d be too pretty for me.” That level of internal racism towards yourself and your own culture was really interesting and something I wasn’t expecting.”  Chey-Ling Huang

The conversations around porn were also really interesting. Every person she interviewed talked about learning sex through porn and how damaging it was for them. Every single person brought it up, but Huang never instigated the discussion, it just came up organically. It’s definitely made her question whether she agrees with porn any more and how problematic it is that it’s become more socially acceptable for young men to watch it and that it’s a lot more damaging at a younger age than most people expect.

In terms of learning about filmmaking, she was able to find both commonalities and points of difference between the theatre. For example, the theatre is an “extremely visual medium” which she thought lent itself well behind the camera, you’re basically creating stories from images. But, in the theatre, you’re limited to time, space, and the physical world. If you want to create something different, you need to be really inventive with the way you use your body and create the energy in the room. In film, you can literally do anything. “You can have unicorns flying through the screen and then you’re suddenly underground. It’s quite limitless.”

Having gone through this experience, her advice for other newbies is that “if you’re thinking about getting into it, just do it, because it’s not as scary and hard as you think it is. Coming from a theatre background, I was ready to be overwhelmed by all the technical stuff and ready to be put in a lot of hard work to catch up in that area. But, if you have a team around you that kind of knows what they are doing or at least have some ideas, it becomes easy and do-able.”

Huang’s next move is to have her film garner as many views as possible across NZ and the rest of the world. She feels that the more successful the film is, the more it proves that POC (people of colour) stories should be up on our screens; that they’re worth putting money into. But she’s clear that it isn’t just up to filmmakers like her. You and the rest of the public can do something by raising your voices and supporting POC narratives by simply sharing, liking, and commenting on social media and “giving the higher powers the stats they need to justify putting money into POC stories.” We are long overdue for both interesting and diverse POC stories on a mainstream level, so let’s do this!

Loading Docs film website tells the stories of New Zealand

By Kaori Shoji

For a Japanese national, the question of why a person from the West would come to Japan is a fascinating one, so much so that there’s even a TV show about it: “You wa Nani Shi ni Nihon E?” (“Why Did You Come to Japan?”).

For Jared James the answer is, eventually, that the people he met made Japan “feel like home.”

 The New Zealander is profiled in the short documentary “Union,” currently streaming on the website Loading Docs. Directed by Jericho Rock-Archer, the piece dives into the foreignness of Japan, without judgment, as seen through James’ eyes. He moves to Shizuoka in an attempt to reinvent himself and falls into a bit of a rut before finding salvation in rugby, which helps him join a community. The general beats of the documentary are no doubt a familiar tale to many non-Japanese living here currently.

“Union” is meticulously shot and covers a lot of ground in its three-minute running time. It’s also just short enough to get sucked into the many other documentaries posted on Loading Docs, which was launched in 2014 to promote novice New Zealand filmmakers. Among some of the other works on the site are “East Meets East,” which follows elderly Chinese in Auckland, and “Asian Men Talk About Sex,” which features a candid discussion about stereotypes.

 

Kiwi Documentaries: Locked and Loaded – Show Me Shorts

By Clayton Barnett

The Loading Docs initiative produces ten short (3-minute) New Zealand documentaries each year. They’ve just unveiled the new films, and our team at Show Me Shorts is super impressed with the boldness and diversity.

I’ve picked my three favourites of this year’s crop for you here. Funny, moving and joyous, these shorts introduce us to real New Zealanders with something to say about culture, conservation, connection, sex, death, fear and hope.

Asian Men Talk About Sex

Talking about sex on camera isn’t easy, but imagine interviewing your dad about it. Director Chye-Ling Huang had a frank conversation with hers – on the culturally taboo subject of sex. The result is a cracking short full of sparkling energy and wry humour.

All eight men interviewed in Asian Men Talk About Sex provide candid and often hilarious answers to questions about Asian stereotypes in film, TV and real life. Old and young, straight and gay, they quickly dispel notions of themselves as a homogenous group of sexless math-whizzes with small… um, equipment.

Director Huang is a co-founder of the the Proudly Asian Theatre company. Her first documentary is well-handled, bold and consistently entertaining. We look forward to more.

Ajax the Kea Conservation Dog

Department of Conservation kea-expert Corey Mosen is passionate about preserving our wildlife. In this gorgeously cinematic short documentary we meet Corey and his best mate Ajax, the endangered kea conservation dog.

Director/cinematographer/editor Michael Weatherall endured harsh mountaintop elements whilst in pursuit of that perfect shot. He pulls out all the tricks in this film – showing off the rugged landscape of the South Island with a combination of slow-motion, time-lapse, Go-Pro and drone footage.

It’s a gorgeous watch, but it’s the emotional journey that’s really captivating. The film is a tantalising insight into the life of an inspiring and passionate New Zealander.

The Coffin Club

Award-winning documentary director Briar March (There Once Was an Island) chose a surprising way to tell a story dealing with death – a musical. The result of this bold choice is a joyous musical short documentary. The Coffin Club introduces us to a group of seniors singing and dancing about how they want to leave this world in personalised style.

Right from the opening frame there is an infectious toe-tapping energy, thanks to the elderly folk who are clearly having an absolute ball making this. The oldest dancer is 94yrs old. If you enjoyed Kiwi feature documentary Hip Hop-eration, you’ll love this.

With stylised framing (nice work, cinematographer Mark Lapwood) it pops with colourful art direction, sequins and slick dance numbers. And thanks to lyricists Briar, Nick Ward and producer Kim Harrop I can’t get it the song out of my head.

I’ve never wanted a pricey funeral with a fancy-pants coffin, and it looks like I’ve found the place to make my own.

 

Twelve Questions with theatre and film maker Julie Zhu

Theatre and film maker Julie Zhu is getting 100 Chinese Aucklanders on stage to tell their stories in a show about what it means to be Chinese in Auckland. The 24-year-old Green Party candidate for Botany believes the voting age should be lowered to 16.

1 Where were you born?

I was born in Xi’an, China and came to New Zealand when I was 4. I’ve only been back once when I was a stroppy teenager and didn’t want to go. Now I really want to. I grew up in East Auckland. My parents were both qualified engineers but had to work menial jobs because their qualifications weren’t recognised here. I didn’t see much of Dad because he always worked at least two jobs. At school maths was my favourite subject because I was really good at it. I found art more challenging because there isn’t always a ‘right’ answer and that’s what attracts me.

2 Your short documentary, East Meets East, is on the Loading Docs website. What’s it about?

I’m so in love with these Chinese grandparents you see walking along with their little shopping trolleys in East Auckland and places like Avondale. They’re so cute. My grandparents belong to that community. Sometimes I’ll catch the bus and see them chatting with their friends. I wanted to learn what life is like for them and whether they feel a sense of belonging here.

3 What did you find out?

There’s a great line in the film where Nana says, “I don’t think that’s racism” about something that I believe is. She won’t say anything negative about New Zealand, probably because she came from a country where bad things could happen if you said the wrong thing. The film follows my grandparents and their friends on a grocery shopping trip because that’s the main activity in their lives. They’re experts at finding bargains and cooking meals. That’s how they contribute to the family for the next generation.

4 You’re producing a play called OTHER [chinese] at Q Theatre next month. What’s it about?

We’ve invited 100 people to come on stage and share their stories about being Chinese in Auckland. The aim is to humanise a stereotyped community by showing them as individuals. Everyone’s migration story differs depending on where they came from and how many generations ago. Chinese people have become a political football, being scapegoated for the housing crisis.

5 Does the show explore racism?

A little. We also look at ideas like internalised racism, which is when you reject your Chinese-ness or other Chinese who have migrated more recently. When I was young I hated even saying the word Chinese. I’d get really offended when people asked me where I was from. I remember thinking, “But I’m fitting in so well, why can’t you see how Kiwi I am?” Now I can acknowledge being Chinese is an important part of who I am.

6 Can you give an example of your Chinese culture?

Growing up I never heard anyone in my family say, “I love you”. The Chinese way of showing you care is to say, “Have you eaten?” In the last few years mum has started to pick up these Western things that are always so jarring. She’ll sign off a note, “Love Mum” or she’ll try to hug me and I’ll instinctively flinch because I’m not used to it. OTHER [chinese] also includes an exhibition of photos of 100 Chinese Aucklanders, a ‘zine and a community day called Tatou Tatou getting Maori and Chinese people together doing things like poi making, weaving, dumpling making, calligraphy and mah jong.

7 Why did you learn to speak te reo Maori?

I tried a class at university and loved it. Learning it gives you insight into Te Ao Maori so you can better understand the Maori way of thinking. Concepts like ‘ownership’ of land and water are very different. The Pakeha idea is about property rights and profit but for Maori it’s about kaitiakitanga or protecting for future generations.

8 How did you get involved in the group Asians for Tino Rangatiratanga?

A couple of years ago I went to a hui at Waitangi for young people learning about the impact of colonisation. During the hkoi an Asian person asked a friend and I if we wanted to help hold an Asians for Tino Rangaitiratanga banner. It was great to see other non-Pkeh standing up for indigenous rights, so last year we took along six friends. Marama Davidson took a photo of us that went viral. We realised we had to be more than just a banner so we formed a group. We’ve done some Treaty workshops for Asian people and advocacy on social media.

9 How did you become the Green Party candidate for Botany?

I’ve always voted Green because, in movie terms, they seemed like the heroes on the side of justice. As soon as you go to a meeting, it’s easy to get involved. Mum hates that I do politics. She lived through the Communist era in China where her family were attacked for being “bourgeois” and her father was sent to the equivalent of a concentration camp. He survived but there’s that inherent trauma and fear of speaking out.

10 How can New Zealand get more young people voting?

When I was younger I thought politics was boring. Lots of young people don’t care about politics because they don’t understand how the system works and how it impacts their everyday lives. It’s such a complex, foreign world. We need to lower the voting age to 16 and teach civics in schools so people can learn about and engage in the election process while they’re still in the education system.

11 Have you ever had a period where you felt really down?

University was the hardest time because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I switched out of art school after my first year and felt like I’d wasted a year of my life. I cried a lot that year. I wish you had one free year to try everything because there’s so much pressure to stick to the first thing you try. Especially if you’re from a lower socio-economic background, you feel like you’re letting your family down.

12 Why were you so upset about Metiria Turei’s resignation as Green Party co-leader?

There was a moment where I felt completely hopeless about the world and the future. It was what it represented symbolically. She was standing up for the poor, the brown and the marginalised. Sure it was a political strategy but the fact she had to step down just shows there’s no point in being honest and trying to change the system because you will be punished, but wealthy, powerful people won’t be. That inequity in society needs to change and I hope we get there soon.

• OTHER [chinese], Q Theatre, 305 Queen St, 6 to 16 September, 7pm
qtheatre.co.nz
East Meets East short film; loadingdocs.net

Three-minute shorts showcase NZ’s diversity

Dancing coffin-makers, an artist who sells ‘surreal estate’, a takatāpui activist redefining Pride and the world’s cutest kea conservation dog: this year’s collection of three-minute shorts released by New Zealand documentary platform Loading Docs (produced by the good folk at Notable Pictures) showcases what a diverse bunch Kiwis are!

The collection also highlights the creativity of the filmmakers who have embraced the challenge of telling a meaningful story in just three minutes.

Watch the latest collection, including He Kākano Ahau – From The Spaces In Between (pictured), produced by Jaimee Poipoi.

 

LOADING DOCS 2017: 3MIN KIWI FILMS ABOUT DIVERSITY

Loading Docs, a mighty springboard for short New Zealand documentaries, recently released 10 new films for 2017 revolving around the theme of ‘diversity’. Check out the collection below.

 

HE KĀKANO AHAU – FROM THE SPACES IN BETWEEN

Learn what it means to be a takatāpui (Māori LGBTQI) activist in this film from director Kathleen Winter, following Kassie (Ngāti Raukawa ki te Tonga) during Gay Pride celebrations.

LUCKIE STRIKE

Director Melissa Nickerson follows Mike and Dave, two underground explorers, in this gorgeously shot film showcasing New Zealand’s most spectacular caves.

SURREAL ESTATE

John Radford is an artist. Ron Jadford is a real estate agent. In this film from director Ursula Williams, the two egos wage war as art clashes with commerce.

150611 Lawrence Smith/Fairfax Media
Artist John Radford has built a collection of miniature weatherboard homes similar to the ones that used to be located in the valley behind the photograph and where currently three motorway underpasses travel through central Auckland.

 

ASIAN MEN TALK ABOUT SEX

Director Chye-Ling Huang and producers Ruby Reihana-Wilson and Kelly Gilbride talk to Asian men about sex. If the title didn’t make that clear.

 

AJAX THE KEA CONSERVATION DOG

Director Michael Weatherall follows the world’s only Kea Conservation dog Ajax, who is a key part to maintaining the endangered South Island species.

 

EAST MEETS EAST

This story about life, death and supermarkets follows a 79-year-old Chinese grandmother, what she’s observed living in New Zealand, and the things that bring her joy. From filmmakers Julie Zhu and Tema Pua.

 

KOTUKU RERENGA RUA

On the brink of death, a Māori academic is brought back to life in this film by directors Tim Worrall and Aaron Smart.

 

#LOSING

A Kiwi performer describes his debilitating bone disease on stage in this film by directors Damian Golfinopoulos and Stjohn Milgrew.

THE COFFIN CLUB

These Kiwi seniors are putting the ‘FUN’ back in ‘FUNERAL’ in this musical short by director Briar March.

 

UNION

A young Māori man who has never played rugby before finds solace and acceptance in the sport when he moves to Japan.

 

Loading Docs: Diverse crop of 2017 Kiwi short-films debut- Stuff.co.nz

Loading Docs: Diverse crop of 2017 Kiwi short-films debut

JAMES CROOT

 Michael Weatherall’s Loading Docs entry Ajax The Kea Conservation Dog also screened as
part of the New Zealand International Film Festival.

A poet reflects on his losing battle with a degenerative bone disease.

Two men attempt to find a new entrance to one of New Zealand’s most spectacular caves.

A group of over-60s get together to personalise their own coffins.

These are just some of the diverse topics covered in the 10 short documentaries selected by the Loading Docs platform for 2017.

Now in its fourth year, the initiative aims to showcase Kiwi film-makers, challenging them to shed light on our country’s people and places – in just three-minutes.

The Coffin Club are a group of rebellious, creative Kiwi seniors give death the finger, one crazy coffin
at a time, as documentarian Briar March discovered.

Project manager Nia Phipps says the quality of the submissions was getting higher and higher every year. With this year’s selected topic being diversity, she was delighted that amongst those selected from around 60 applications there were stories from Euro-Chinese, American, Chinese and Euro-Samoan directors, as well as one documentary fully and one-partially in Te Reo. The final 10 were also created by six female directors and six female producers.

“We really wanted to represent many New Zealand voices in this collection, so we did extra outreach this year into the Maori, Pasifika, Asian and gay communities,” Phipps says.

Four of the shorts also featured in the Auckland leg of the New Zealand International Film Festival.

When asked if she thought Kiwis were becoming more attuned to viewing short films, Phipps believed it was a reflection of the way we consume media now.

“We like to relax at home or consume things on the go and a short piece of media that’s well-formed and carefully concentrates on story can still give you a lot in a short time. The best ones take you on a journey – make you laugh, make you cry, stir something – even just in three-minutes.”

Phipps says as well as providing exposure for young film-makers, the NZ On Air-funded Loading Docs also provides professional development for them. She cites J Ollie Lucks, who created the 2015 Loading Docs short Wilber Force, as an example, with the German-born, Dunedin-raised director having recently turned that into the feature-length Wilber: The King in the Ring with the help of Notable Pictures, the group behind the Loading Docs initiative.

But after focusing on home, connection, change and now diversity, what topic does Loading Docs have up its sleeve for 2018?

“Nothing’s certain yet,” says Phipps. “We always like to think about films that will have an impact on the world. We’ll see what comes out of our planning sessions in the next few weeks.”

The 2017 Loading Docs are now available to view at loadingdocs.net and on tvnz.co.nz

 

 – Stuff

Loading Docs 2017 watch now!

MANY VOICES MANY STORIES MANY SCREENS

PRESS RELEASE

Diversity is the theme of the latest collection of 10 new 3-minute shorts released by New Zealand documentary platform Loading Docs, marking the fourth year of success for the filmmaking initiative. This year’s collection showcases the creativity of filmmakers who embrace the challenge of telling a meaningful story in just three minutes and invites audiences to see New Zealand’s people and places in a new light.

The films take viewers on a journey from the Asian supermarkets of East Auckland to the rugby fields of Japan, down hundreds of metres below the earth’s surface and up to the highest peaks of New Zealand. Along the way, we eavesdrop on Asian men talking about sex, encounter dancing coffin-making seniors, a takatāpui activist redefining Pride, a man who defied death, an artist who sells surreal estate, a poet battling an incurable bone disease, and meet the world’s cutest kea conservation dog.

“Loading Docs films may be short and shareable, but they tell stories that are meaningful, thought-provoking and challenging,” says Executive Producer Julia Parnell. “Loading Docs is a showcase of New Zealand talent and documentary and we are incredibly proud to share these films with audiences in Aotearoa and around the world”.

Loading Docs is a Notable Pictures initiative funded by NZ On Air, along with the New Zealand Film Commission and new partner Te Māngai Pāho This initiative continues to support and develop diverse filmmaking talent and a diversity of ways to create and distribute documentaries.

Loading Docs documentaries are seen by hundreds of thousands of viewers every year, both at home and all around the world across platforms online, on broadcast television, the big screen and in-flight. These are stories that captivate and invite us to see local stories in new ways.

New Zealand International Film Festival audiences have already had a preview of four Loading Docs films selected for this year’s festival. From today, viewers around the world will be able to watch and share the short docs online via www.loadingdocs.net and on TVNZ.co.nz.

Check out our trailer and share it with the world

Daily Mail – Rebellious seniors build personalised coffins

By Yael Brender

In a small town in New Zealand, a group of creatively rebellious seniors have found a way to combat the high cost of funerals.

‘The Coffin Club’ is a crazy, unique community organisation where elderly people build and personalise their own coffins, calling themselves ‘makers of fine, affordable, underground furniture’.

Its members recently joined forces with Loading Docs to produce a hilarious musical documentary about their mission.

More than 60 active members attend weekly workshops to ‘rejoice in life while facing the realities of death’, making sure that drab funerals are a thing of the past.

‘What’s the point of living a life that’s colourful and bold…And then you’re told this is how your exit’s going to be? Boring!’ sings founding director Katie Williams, 77.

‘What do you do when the music stops, when you’re on the way out, but there’s mounting costs? All for the price of a stupid wooden box!

‘So we stated a club to make coffins of our own, and save some cash, and my! How’s it grown!’

Founder Katie Williams, 77, who is a former midwife and hospice nurse, has inspired like-minded seniors to start their own clubs all over New Zealand.

‘I had seen lots of people dying and their funerals were nothing to do with the vibrancy and life of those people,’ Ms Williams told The Guardian last year.

‘You would not know what they were really like. That they had lived and laughed and loved. I had a deep-seated feeling that people’s journeys deserved a more personal farewell.’

‘You build a box. It’s a resting place to sing your song. It’s the final verse, but life goes on!’

People can decorate their coffins exactly the way they like; one man has plastered pictured of Elvis Presley all over his, while others have painted theirs with landscapes or covered them in newspaper.

The original coffin club, which has been active for over a decade in Rotarua, make home-made and personalised coffins go for just NZ$250 a pop.

‘In fact, we’ve ruffled some feathers,’ says Ms Williams gleefully in the video. ‘But we won them over in the end, and they couldn’t help but love us!’

In addition to building their own, the group also work hard to construct baby caskets which they donate to the local hospital free of charge.

A similar group recently popped up in Tasmania, and it’s clear that the idea is spreading.

The Coffin Club is a part of a brand new collection of 3 minute documentaries. The rest of the Loading Docs are available to watch for free at loadingdocs.net.

Singing coffin builders star in NZ doco

Deutsche Presse Agentur

Elderly New Zealanders with a macabre hobby are the stars of a new musical documentary.

Filmmaker Briar March’s The Coffin Club, released online on Friday, portrays a group of senior citizens who build and paint their own low-cost coffins.

Based in Rotorua, in the North Island, the group meets once a week to rejoice in life while facing the realities of death.

It started in 2010 when former palliative nurse Katie Williams was pondering new activities for the elderly.

The now-78-year-old had little knowledge of carpentry so brought together some friends with the necessary backgrounds and the club was soon up and running.

March said she decided to make the film as a documentary musical because she thought the mix of genres would demonstrate there was still so much to celebrate when facing mortality.

“We have been utterly amazed and in awe of our cast of seniors who have had the courage to sing and dance and perform for the camera,” she said, with the oldest dancer going on 94.

The film is part of Loading Docs, a New Zealand initiative that hosts short documentaries.