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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.

 

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.