Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Blue Wall hopes to shine a positive light on Ōtara South Auckland

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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Neueli Mauafu | Reporter

Anthony Costello has recently released his latest documentary titled Blue Wall

The nine episode film is set in Ōtara at Tangaroa College and follows the journey of the 1st XV rugby team through adversities they face in the community but also within their team.

Costello reveals that the idea sprung into mind after a conversation with his good friend, the late Allan Va’a. Allan who is known for his community work across Ōtara spoke about making a positive story about Otara and its community.

“We got talking about Tangaroa College and the rugby programme there,” Costello explained.  

“He told me how the coach transforms these boys into good men. I loved the idea and he set up a meeting with the Principal Davida Suasua and coach Saua Leaupepetele and the day after I started filming.”

Coach Saua Leaupepetele with his team players. Photo: Supplied

Filming originally began in 2020, but with COVID the rugby season was cut short halting filming over the next few months. Upon receiving notice of the season coming to an end for the year, Costello continued on with his shooting process, focusing on individual stories for the team.

For most people including Costello, their only idea of Ōtara was mainly what the media had pushed out through the news outlet. Being able to direct and also rub shoulders with the community while filming Blue Wall was an eye opening experience for Costello.

“On my very first day at the school the boys invited me back to one of their houses where they were all getting haircuts. I felt so welcomed from day one.” Costello said.

“My time spent inside the homes of the boys was amazing. I used to go home afterwards feeling buzzed. Food is a massive part of the culture and I had so many incredible feeds. I got to know them all really well and the families are friends for life.”

“The reality is that Ōtara is home to some of the most kind, generous, friendly, warm, welcoming people I’ve ever met.”

Tangaroa College 1st XV. Photo: Supplied

Since its release in the past two weeks or so, Blue Wall has gained interest from well known figures within the Rugby sector. Among them is Black Ferns coach Wayne Smith, who recently led his team to World Cup glory on New Zealand soil.  

For Costello, the feedback that stands out are the positive comments and messages shown by the Ōtara community.

“The main feedback I’ve loved is from the people of the Ōtara community who love seeing themselves and their stories told authentically. It makes me feel really proud when people message me from the community.”

Costello hopes that Blue Wall will spread awareness to the many issues that the South Auckland community face, an area that is ridiculed with stereotypes from onlookers and the media.  

A lot of these issues can be solved from a very young age, he believes. The same age group that is common amongst the young boys in the Tangaroa College 1st XV who he interviewed for the documentary. 

Costello hopes that Blue Wall will spread awareness about the many issues that the South Auckland community faces. Photo: Supplied

“I think a big issue is how the schooling system doesn’t work for all our people here in Aotearoa. We need to be thinking of different ways to keep everyone engaged in school.”

“We need to empower more people like Renee Tawhi (school teacher), someone from the area with new ideas who knows how to connect with her students.”

 Costello’s work on Blue Wall has also made him appreciative towards his work as a director, and the power that has in telling one’s story.

“I like to tell stories with lots of heart that draw attention to issues in Aotearoa. I like to tell stories that are real, raw and honest but also uplifting.”

“When it came to the final edit I had to make sure that all the parts I wanted in the story were kept in. I made sure all the humour, the culture and the brotherhood were there so it felt authentic.”

All episodes of Blue Wall can be found online on NZ Herald’s YouTube page and is free for viewing.

“I really hope that people from outside the community watch the series and have their perceptions of Ōtara changed, just like mine were. Ōtara is a beautiful community full of beautiful people. I had one of the best years of my life in Ōtara – Home Of The Brave.”

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