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.

 

Short of The Week- Loading Docs 2017

 

 

 

By Paul Hunter

Loading Docs has just released their fourth season of documentary short films as part of their ongoing initiative to develop and promote New Zealand’s filmmaking talent. An annual anthology we always look forward to being released, the films not only help nourish up-and-coming filmmakers from New Zealand, but provide a fascinating, insightful snapshot of the country and its inhabitants. Acting almost like a Film Board in their development and distribution of shorts focused on key issues in the culture and society of NZ, initiatives like this continue to play a vital role in the short film arena, helping filmmakers not only get their stories made, but equally importantly…seen.

We’ve featured a few of their films (Wilbur ForceLiving like KingsThe Jump) in previous years, and remain a big fan of their goals and achievements. The ten films for 2017 are all centered around the theme of ‘diversity’. Featuring stories of sex, death, love, loss, hope, friendship, culture and identity, the 10 short films range from the gloriously colorful and am-dram world of preparing for one’s impending death, through to a man and his dog working to save the Kea (New Zealand’s alpine parrot). They are all worth a look, and since they all clock in at around 3 minutes, they are perfectly suited for online viewing in our time-poor world! You can see them all on the Loading Docs website, but if you allow me, here are a few to get you started:

Surreal Estate
 Director: Usrusla Williams

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.

An artist and his real-estate agent alter ego clash over the age-old problem of art versus commerce. Renowned New Zealand artist John Radford represents both sides of the conflict that exists within all of those creating art, but also having to find a way to put food on the table in this amusing but insightful documentary around Radford’s GRAFT project. As lovers of short film, I’m sure I don’t need to say why this one struck a chord with us.

Luckie Strike
Director: Melissa Nickerson

Hundreds of meters below the earth’s surface, Mike and Dave struggle to discover a new entrance into one of New Zealand’s most spectacular caves. The film looks fantastic, and the physical struggles endured to make it certainly payoff, but ironically for a film with such great natural beauty, it is the charismatic banter between the two spelunkers that give the film that extra bit of charm that will leave you smiling, and almost convince you that crawling through small muddy holes would make for a good weekend.

 

The Coffin Club
Director: Briar March

A group of rebellious, creative Kiwi seniors give death the finger, one crazy coffin at a time. In different hands, the story of a collective of seniors toiling away at making their own personalized coffins could have been quite a morbid affair. Nothing could be further from that than this wonderfully colorful am-dram docu-musical, featuring the truly unique members of the Kiwi Coffin Club who prepare for their deaths by fully embracing life!

East Meets East
Director: Julie Zhu

The honest musings of a Chinese grandmother brings an unseen community into the spotlight. We spend the day with 79-year-old Fang Ruzhen, who came to New Zealand to help raise her grandchildren. Through her we join a community which is at once wholly foreign, but yet very much part of their communities and family. The film manages to balance the conflict between this lack of full integration, and the universal themes of family, sacrifice, and community.

 

2017 Loading Docs trailer

MANY VOICE MANY STORES MANY SCREENS

Diversity is the theme of the latest collection of 10 new 3-minute shorts.

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 2017 Releasing Soon!

Diversity is the theme of the latest collection of ten 3-minute Loading Docs shorts, marking the fourth year of success for the documentary initiative.

Since 2014 Loading Docs has invited New Zealand documentary makers to pitch based on a common theme. Filmmakers who aspire to push creative boundaries and hone their craft are then chosen to participate in a talent development programme resulting in the creation of ten groundbreaking documentary stories.

From the beginning, we have sought out stories from all over Aotearoa, made by filmmakers from different backgrounds and levels of experience. 2017’s theme of diversity brings this aspect of Loading Docs to the forefront, celebrating the uniqueness and difference of our documentary-making talent and the stories they have to tell.

Loading Docs 2017 features stories of sex, death, love, loss, hope, friendship, culture and identity. In just three minutes, Loading Docs takes us to places we may never have imagined and invites us to see our own world in a new light.

Like all good documentaries, these short films provoke, inspire and awaken curiosity.

Loading Docs is a Notable Pictures initiative supported by NZ On Air, The New Zealand Film Commission and Te Māngai Paho.

Loading Docs 2017 will be available to view and share online at www.loadingdocs.net and OnDemand.

 

 

 

 

Asian Men Talk About Sex: The director’s cut with Chye-Ling Huang

Asian Men Talk About Sex: The director’s cut with Chye-Ling Huang

by AMY WENG

Asian Men Talk About Sex is three women’s mission; to challenge the mainstream media’s portrayal of ‘sexy’ by asking every-day Asian men in New Zealand to talk about their sex lives – the good, the bad and the ugly – in order to reclaim it. Director Chye-Ling Huang spoke to Amy Weng about the challenges involved in creating the documentary, and what she hopes the film will help us to understand.

Amy Weng: I first heard about Asian Men Talk About Sex on Facebook and I was a little stunned because it’s such a taboo subject. I’m really interested to hear what kind of conversations you were having that inspired this project and at which point did you decide, yeah, we need to do this?

Chye-Ling Huang: Everything that happens in your life is going to feed into your art making. Being a Chinese New Zealander, I’m always interested in investigating bicultural nuances, especially relationships. We had the Loading Docs initiative brought to us, and we all sat down and thought, this is the year. We’ve never been filmmakers but this is the perfect opportunity for us to learn something new and reach more people.

So we sat down and thought about what we could do. So far a lot of the work I’ve been making has been about women, or have women protagonist. James Roque is the co-founder of PAT and we were wondering what else could we do and say about Asian men. They are incredibly marginalised. On screen, there are no Asian dudes and we were like, damn, this is an actually a massive hole. We started talking about the tropes and stereotypes about Asian men and how all these stereotypes are connected by one major motivating factor which is to emasculate Asian men. How could we combat this or shed light on this?

One of the first ideas was to try and find all the Asian male celebrities in New Zealand. American screen is taking steps forward but in New Zealand, who are the Asian men on TV and film? We combed our history and found a couple of Shortland St characters: one was a gay dude, played by Peter Huang, and the other was an evil doctor, played by Mel Odedra for a few episodes. And then there’s the ‘Spray & Walk Away’ guy and a mixed race Chinese guy who does the news occasionally. And Raybon Khan – that’s it. That’s five people that we found from the entirety of our screen history. It’s just mental.

We thought we should make a documentary about an actor going through all these things. Yoson An is my friend and an Asian actor. He’s incredibly good looking and talking to him I found a lot of the work that he’s done is totally bucking the stereotype. He’s worked a lot with Flat 3, he’s a leading romantic figure in their videos.

AW: He was also in the Mooncake and the Kumara by Mei-Lin Te Puia Hansen.

CLH: Yeah, and he was in Ghost Bride where he had a white love interest and an Asia HBO drama where he was also a leading man. So he was completely bucking the stereotype but where is that on mainstream New Zealand TV? It’s a different conversation when you start talking about why this is happening and how it is affecting everyday people. How is the media using emasculating tropes as an example for our romantic lives? And how does this affect normal Asian men who only see themselves as these horrific emasculated tropes?

So we thought, let’s take the focus off this hunky actor who has his own certain privilege. The problem isn’t that we need more hunky Asian men, it’s about normalising sexuality in Asian men. So that’s how we landed on Asian Men Talk About Sex. We wanted everyday Asian dudes to be talking about sex in a normal and healthy way. We didn’t want it to be fetishised and we didn’t want it to be a BuzzFeed sensationalisation piece. We wanted it to be real. We want people to see themselves in this film and relate. We didn’t want men to aspire to be that ripped six-pack guy who made it onto that one episode of whatever as eye candy for the ladies. We wanted to see real people.

Tristan Hemi Colenso, in Asian Men Talk About Sex

AW: I’m interested in you three women creating a documentary about men and their sexuality. Were there any particular challenges you faced as women? And how did you deal with it?

CLH: Me, and producers Kelly Gilbride and Ruby Reihana-Wilson are Chinese New Zealander, Pakeha and Māori women. Looking at our own internalised racism was challenging. Being like, yeah, I’ve never dated an Asian guy, or thinking about how we judge people of different races on Tinder. In my intellectual mind, I’m not a racist but I’ve been socially conditioned to be attracted to white people. That’s what American and New Zealand media are feeding me. It’s so yuck. That was a really interesting investigation for us. It’s so insidious.

AW: Someone told me about this OKCupid survey that found that Asian men are the least desirable group of all races and genders- second were black women.

CLH: And Asian women are at the top. Asian women are heavily sexualised and Asian men are desexualised which is mind-boggling – so watch out for season two of Asian Women Talk About Sex.

It was an interesting endeavour because we were investigating our own racial prejudice and for me being a Chinese New Zealander I feel like I have some sort of claim to investigating stuff about Asian people. Being in that world allowed me to put myself in their shoes and investigate further so it was easy enough to relate on a cultural level, but the nuances of being male were definitely something out of my depth, which I really enjoyed hearing about in such a confronting and truthful way.

I think one of the advantages to making this doco as women because our viewers are also going to be women. The people whose minds we wanted to change are women – and men. There are a couple of non-hetero men in this film, but a lot of hetero women will be watching this.

I’m really sex positive in general which is a good place to start when talking about these issues – I directed a play called Like Sex about teenage sex in New Zealand and I’m also writing a different play about sexual racial prejudice. But we realised we were all women so we decided our crew was going to be entirely Asian men. Our DOP, cameraman and editor Calvin Sang, photographer, and art department guy Michael McCabe, camera assistant and lighting guy Sash Samaratunga and consultants Nathan Joe and James Roque are all Asian New Zealanders of different ethnicities. So we had lots of consultation. The idea was to make the space as comfortable as possible.

The idea was to make the space as comfortable as possible. Sometimes though, when things got too uncomfortable for the guys they would flick their eyes to Kelvin or Sash or Michael, which made me feel, oh, my very presence as a female in this situation is actually quite confronting. I wonder if that affected any of the outcomes on film. That was something I thought in the back of my mind. This is a pretty intense situation for these guys to be in.

AW: It’s only a three-minute doco right?

CLH: Yes – that’s the beauty of the Loading Docs initiative. It’s a really great challenge and has allowed us to really hone in on what it is we are trying to say, our tone and story and aims for the doco. It’s been great to have Loading Docs support is in this way, as we are theatre-makers mainly. Three minutes is also genius because it’s so shareable, accessible and is enough to get people talking. We are making a twelve-minute director’s cut too which will allow us to go a bit deeper, so those who enjoyed the concept of this one will hopefully stick around to watch more! We shot seven hours of footage because we knew we would do an extended cut.

AW: You mentioned you talked to your dad about his sexual experiences, and you said it was awkward but it also helped you to see him as a whole human being. Did you have any other thought or reflections on that? The need to portray Asian men as whole human beings, that seems really compelling to me.

CLH: Sex is such a human experience and if you take that away from someone you are dehumanising them. If you give Asian men back that narrative I’m hoping that will humanise them again for viewers. I think having Asian men talk about sex is quite revolutionary in that sense.

When I talked about my dad and about seeing him as a whole human being, it’s on the same level as seeing them cry for the first time, or seeing them fail, or finding something that you disagree with them on. They have all these complex feeling like me and they are not this perfect person.

On a human level, on a father-daughter level, it was interesting to hear my dad talk about sex because it opened things up like, fuck, he’s lived such a life and he’s such a complex person. He’s such a strong, wise, guiding figure in my life. Hearing my dad talk about his experiences and him having to unlearn and relearn what sex was, things just fell into place.

My dad talked a lot to me about his failed marriage but getting down to the why and how he got there and how things in his youth greatly impacted on his future, it makes so much sense and it is such a human thing to repeat what you have learnt and to hold onto problematic lessons that are ingrained in you as a child.

It all becomes understandable and forgivable. It’s just humanising. I can understand him and that’s what the aim of this documentary is. For people to understand and find a connection with these guys who are just regular looking guys who have sex. They’ve had fun doing it and they’ve had awkward times and we can all relate to that.

Read more

Doco on elderly Chinese migrants shows difficulty settling

Morning Report- Doco on elderly Chinese migrants shows difficulty settling

A new documentary film called East Meets East has been released looking into the difficulties elderly Chinese migrants are facing trying to settle into NZ. The suggestion is that it’s not all that easy for the struggling migrants and that the perception is the migrants are a drain on society.

Listen to the interview HERE

Via Morning Report Radio New Zealand

Kiwi Coffin Club gets interest ‘all over the show’ – Rotorua Daily Post

Kiwi Coffin Club gets interest ‘all over the show’

A local club has been overwhelmed by the international interest in what they do and are looking forward to being the focus of a musical documentary.

Katie Williams, Kiwi Coffin Club founder and member co-ordinator, said the club had been operating in Rotorua since 2010, and was now getting inquiries from all over the world.

“It’s really gone global.”

The club helps people make DIY coffins with the aim of helping people feel in control to the end and show who the people were as individuals, she said.

 There are also clubs set up in Katikati, Waitakere and Hawke’s Bay.

She said the club had inquiries from Russia, the Czech Republic, France, the Netherlands, Germany and the United States of America – “all over the show”.

Some were keen to start it up themselves while others just showed an interest, she said.

Mrs Williams said the club had done interviews for the BBC and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and were featured in an article in the United Kingdom’s The Guardian.

Now, a musical-based documentary is being made on the club.

Loading Docs is a documentary initiative, with the support of principal funder New Zealand On Air, along with the New Zealand Film Commission and Te Mangai Paho, which helps fund, create and distribute ten films a year.

The Coffin Club are one of the recipients of this funding from Loading Docs.

They had their first singing rehearsal last week, and the Auckland company came down and recorded it, Mrs Williams said.

“It is so much fun to see these darling oldies singing and dancing.”

She said, as far as she knew, the documentary would be made in May and ready for distribution in June.

It’s not the first time the club has featured in a documentary, previously being filmed by a Japanese film crew.

“It’s been overwhelming but in other ways very satisfying.”

Club member Raewynne Latemore said the interest the club had received was “mind blowing” and it was lovely to see others interested in doing the same for themselves.

She said it would be interesting to see what the Auckland film crew came up with for the documentary.

Via Rotorua Daily Post

East Meets East to tell stories of Chinese elderly, migration and friendship

East Meets East to tell stories of Chinese elderly, migration and friendship

Film maker and theatre producer Julie Zhu may not speak much Mandarin, but understanding enough of the language to “eavesdrop” during long bus journeys has seen her come up with a unique concept for a documentary short film.

East Meets East follows Zhu’s 79-year-old grandmother, Fang Ruzhen, as she makes new friends during her weekly bus trips to East Auckland’s Asian supermarkets. Zhu first noticed elderly Chinese immigrants building a new community for themselves when she caught buses from East Auckland into the city during her university days.

“I understand a lot more Chinese than I speak so I would hear them talking about where they were from, what they were doing in New Zealand, sharing information and getting to know one another,” she says. “I realised how they’ve managed to survive in a new country is by meeting people like them in unexpected places.”

Directed by Zhu and produced by Tema Pua, East Meets East is one of ten documentary short films selected for this year’s Loading Docs film project. Loading Docs, which started in 2014, helps develop New Zealand film-makers by matching them with mentors to make three minute long films which will “captivate and inspire” audiences.

This year’s theme is diversity and Zhu says East Meets East fits perfectly because it explores issues of relevance to Chinese migrants as well as the elderly.

“Stories about immigrant experiences usually follow a young characters’ journey into Western culture and focus on the battle between their home and Western cultures. I wanted to make a film that moved away from that because when we celebrate diversity, we should celebrate the different peoples found within groups.

“We hardly ever see stories that feature the perspectives of our immigrant elders but these stories are just as relevant and necessary to show.”

She says like her grandparents, many elderly Chinese people come to New Zealand to help care for their grandchildren while their adult children work. Because they migrate in their 60s, 70s, or 80s, it’s almost impossible for them to pick up a new language or try to assimilate in the usual ways.

“My nana’s been here for 15 years and while she’s tried to learn English, it remains a foreign language to her,” says Zhu. “This adds to her isolation, so it’s incredible that she and other Chinese grandparents have forged this new source of community for themselves.”

Born in China and raised in Auckland, Zhu’s already written and directed several short films. She was the director of photography on The Spectacular Imagination of the Pōhara Brothers, which screened at the NZ International Film Festival 2016 and several indigenous film festivals around the world.

Watch East Meets East Boosted video HERE

Via nzherlad.co.nz

Loading Ultra-Short Documentaries-Standing Room Only

Loading Ultra-Short Documentaries- Radio New Zealand

My Dog Ajax Photo: supplied

New Zealand is well-known for making great documentaries – we like real-life stories it seems.  But they do occasionally tend to ramble. That’s not the case of our preeminent documentary initiative, the crowd-funded Loading Docs project. This year’s ultra-short documentaries have to say what they’ve got to say in less time than a pop single – around three minutes.  Simon Morris talks to two prospective film-makers, Ursula Williams – Now and Then – and Michael Weatherall – My Dog Ajax, and to the Project Manager, Nia Phipps.  Loading Docs is funded by New Zealand On Air, with support from the NZ Film Commission and Te Mangai Paho.

Listen to the interview HERE.

Via Radio New Zealand- Standing Room Only