Home' Waiheke Weekender : July 26th 2012 Contents 26 July 2012
4 Waiheke Weekender
long time now, it’s still there at the
core of my identity and instills in me
a sense of wellbeing.
When starting this project she was
also interested in the origin of the
thematic strands in her work, all of
which incorporates nostalgia ... and
usually at least one fish that’s often dead. The last bit, she says, is
rather concerning. “I think the nostalgic element originates from my
relationship to the island. Making The Red House was a way for
me to analyse this quality, to look at where it came from in order to
either shed it or enable me to wield it to better effect.”
She says it is the most complex fiction she has ever created, but
it was fulfilling using a poetic way of saying something that is true
and real. “The wisdom and intelligence of my collaborators and
what they brought to the project has been a pleasure to experience.
The film feels quite honest and simple and although the process is
demanding, I feel very satisfied that it’s coming together.
“I value the families and community of the small headland at
Putiki Bay. That my parents’ generation is still there means a lot
to me. It’s really nice to come back to a place and visit people who
I’ve known since I was a baby and who have known all the different
versions of me along the way.
“I also appreciate that the island still has a concern for retaining
the ecology and balance of living a life in relationship with nature. I
hope it will continue to have this into the future.
“My parents generation grew up through the fifties in a much
more conservative society and therefore had much more to rebel
against, choosing to live in a more simple manner on the island
rather than enjoy a life full of the commodities of the city. There was
a sense of urgency to change things through that period when they
were in their twenties and thirties – the feminist movement, Vietnam
war, the disarmament movement and homosexual reform bill.
“I don’t think our generation is nearly as active or politically
motivated as our parents. There are several reasons for this. We’ve
been born into a culture that is more aware of the environment and
social and political attitudes are more liberal, so perhaps we don’t
feel the need to fight as much. Although there is still so much at
stake with our environment in jeopardy and the current government
selling off our assets, we certainly seem more ambivalent.”
However, having said this, she says she looks at the individuals
she grew up with on the island and sees them all doing really amaz-
ing things in different parts of the world and often carrying on a
vision of actively contributing to their communities.
As a film-maker, working with her parents’ values and lives was
a challenging but ultimately satisfying process.
“I got to ques-
tion their attitudes and belief systems quite closely. To write the
voiceover for the film, I had to understand them and then develop
and re-write lines and ideas to become more in tune with the ideas
and motivations of their fictional characters (which are based on
a few different peoples’ stories). This research period has brought
us closer and given me a greater sense of compassion not just for
my parents and the choices they have made but also for people in
“Our country is layered with stories of people whose land has
been taken away from them. In the
film I was curious about the contrasts
of two distinct places and the familiar-
ity or isolation my characters felt in
each. I deliberately tried to represent
the locations as ‘a small island’ and
‘a big city’. Doing this enables me to
situate these ideas in a poetic space rather than a literal political and
“I was interested in how it feels if the causes you were commit-
ted to no longer have the same emphasis as you grow older. Your
impact in the world is waning. Lee’s character was part of the 1970s
activist generation and he is still an idealist. He says, “ideally the
relationship between land and people is like that of a couple deeply
in love”. He is trying to understand his place in a world that’s chang-
“Jia is much more accepting of the fates that govern the chang-
es in her life. She says in the film, “I come to this life not by my
self wish, I have no judgment.” So I was interested in the different
outlook of the characters – that of a man who has grown up feeling
like he had a choice and having the weight of that ‘choice’ on his
shoulders pressing him to do some good in the world, and that of
a woman who didn’t have much choice, but has tried to make the
most of what she has been given to help the people around her.”
“Shooting with my parents was both amazing and horrendous at
the same time. When we started neither they or I had really come to
terms with the extent of work and time this project would require. It
has been a great process coming to know them both in a way that I
didn’t before. I feel huge gratitude for the gift of their performances
and commitment to the process.
“For much of the process my stepmother thought I was complete-
ly crazy and that what I was making would be boring, and a huge
waste of money and effort. My father also had grave doubts from
time to time.
“I’d also given my parents the right to veto anything in the mate-
rial, so my biggest fear was that I’d show the film to them and they
would declare it unworthy of release. “I kept putting off showing
them. When I heard from Bill Gosden that the film was accepted
into the film festival and my application to the Film Commission
for finishing funds was partially successful, I needed to know if my
parents approved before I could officially accept Bill’s invitation
and also the grant.
“The moment of reckoning came about three quarters of the way
through their first screening. My stepmother turned to me and said:
“It’s a movie! Not only that, it’s actually a good movie. It has ideas
“Alyx’s recognition of the complexity of
visual culture is apparent in every frame of
this lovely first feature”
- Festival Director Bill Gosden
Lee’s character was part of the 1970s activist generation and he is still an idealist trying to
understand his place in a world that’s changing.
“Ideally the relationship between land and people is like that of a couple deeply in love,” he says.
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