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BLACK POWER - FAST FORWARD

New Zealand, 1990 (MIFF 1991, Documentaries)

Director: Peter Cathro

This is not a balanced, even-handed portrayal of the Maori gang who call themselves Black Power. They are one of many such gangs in New Zealand, which have for years inspired fear and mistrust among the greater community. It is a film that takes an affirmative stance.

The gang members have a history of discontent, criminal activity and alienation from the mainstream of society. This film takes us into the very male world of one gang chapter - Black Power Auckland, also known as the Piki Mai Trust - who are effecting change through self-determination, strong leadership and Maoritanga, reviving their Maori Heritage. They have created an urban Marae - a place of belonging where they meet, work and socialize.

The film is a result of co-operation between the Black Power gang, its top hierarchy, and the film makers who worked together to create a film that they both hold to be true.

This method has it problems, particularly in the exclusion of women from the film. Women are not gang members, and their influence is not explored by the filmmakers, at the insistence of the gang members.

What we do get is an inside view of the gang, and the debate surrounding Government sponsorship of the various work programs in place that support them. The gangs are seen as a negative force by much of New Zealand society but this film gives a rare insight into how they are a way of survival for many young Maoris, excluded and marginalized by that society.

It was made in a collaborative spirit, with the gang members viewing rushes and being involved in the editing process, and was well received by the gang. It was the first time a film had been made with the co-operation of the gang members, who are generally very suspicious of outsiders, especially ones associated with the media, who have usually exploited them in a sensationalist manner. (G.M.)

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