Samoan Director Jade Jackson tackles NZ’s dark past in short film ‘Raids’
Emerging Samoan filmmaker Jade Jackson is on a mission to bring Pacific Islands stories to the big screen.
She recently returned to her hometown of Porirua to make the short film Raids – about the racist dawn raids on Pacific Island families in the 1970s. Matai’a Sarah Richards with this story.
At an old house in Cannons Creek, Jade Jackson’s gathered a keen crew for her short film.
It’s the first shoot location for Raids, directed by Jade and written by friend and collaborator Esteban Jaramillo. She’s managed to pull it off with next to no budget.
“Twenty seven people here today who are all doing this because… because it’s important. Because they believe in me, but also because they believe in what we’re talking about.
“Because I couldn’t get funding for doing this particular short film, everyone was like, ‘Don’t care. I wanna do it.’ So… I’m feeding everyone basically – paying them with food,” she laughs.
Set in 1975, Raids shows a police raid through the eyes of a girl named Losa. Jade cast local actors in key roles. It’s been a chance for a new generation to open up conversations about a hidden past.
“We have Mikayla who is just 14, so she fits the role of Losa who is also 14 perfectly,” says Jade. “We had a great conversation [about the Dawn Raids]… She was like, ‘No this is important. I want to tell it,’ and quite fiercely too.”
“Then with Biondi [Sio], he was exactly the same… He just poured out his passion for the fact that this did happen, and how unbelievable it actually is that Pasifika people have lived through that.”
The Dawn Raids of the mid-1970s was a dark period in New Zealand history. Immigration law allowed police to raid the homes of Pacific Islanders in the early hours of the morning, demanding proof of residency and passports.
“It was very traumatic for our community, so I wanted to shed a light on that,” says Jade. “It’s something that I didn’t know about, which was really confusing to me. I only found out about the Dawn Raids two years ago when I also found out about the Polynesian Panthers. It kind of hurt me to think that I didn’t know about this.”
Growing up, Jade moved around a lot in New Zealand, but she spent her early schooling years in Porirua, where her Nana lived.
“My nana, growing up I was really close to her. She loved teaching me things. She’d teach me all about the culture. However, I was kind of in and out of her life, and I wasn’t exactly completely integrated into learning about it – learning the language, learning all these things that looking back I really wished I had,” Jade admits.
As both Samoan and Palagi, she says she struggled with her identity.
“I went to mostly white schools. You know, there was this definite divide that kind of happened throughout my life. And I felt stuck. There was something where I felt I wasn’t sure if I belonged over here or over here.”
“I still think back to when I was really embarrassed about saying I was Samoan, or saying that I was from Porirua. It really hurts me to think about that now.”
Finding out about the truth about New Zealand’s history has helped her further understand why she struggled for so long to come to grips with who she was.
“Now I know it stemmed a lot from the systemic racism that we have here in New Zealand, that we have just all around us, all the time,” says Jade.
“As a young girl, that affects you. That affects the way you see yourself.”
Returning to Porirua to film Raids has given Jade a deeper appreciation for the place she calls home.
“When we reached out to the Porirua community for help on finding a house and finding crew and things like that, we had an overwhelming response from people that just wanted to help.”
And she feels connected now more than ever to her roots.
“It’s definitely helped me feel empowered to be who I am. Yeah, and to be able to sit here and say I am really proud to be Samoan. I love it. I love our community. I love everything that we stand for. We are such a beautiful culture. And all I honestly want to see is, I just wanna see us be able to just be us. That’s really it.”
Jade now hopes to find producers to help turn Raids into a feature film called Losa, about the Polynesian Panthers. She’s also on the lookout for producers for another short film called Pepe, based on the Samoan myth of Telesā.
She has a message for other Pacific women who want to get into film.
“We are stronger together, and the more we can be out there and saying this is what I’m doing or this is what I wanna do, the more people can hear that, the more of us can get together and actually create these things together. If you want to, you can and you should.”
Raids is set to premiere in August 2021. Follow Jade at Red Rock Productions (@RRFilms) to keep up to date.