NZIFF Q&A: Marina Alofagia McCartney

Marina Alofagia McCartney.
Still from the film Milk & Honey
Milk & Honey is a personal story loosely based on Marina's parents experience during the Dawn Raid period.


Marina Alofagia McCartney talks about her short film Milk & Honey, one of New Zealand’s Best shorts at the NZ International Film Festival.

She says it’s a very personal story, loosely based on her parents' experience during the Dawn Raid period in the 1970s.

“I hope that I have made a film that Pasifika feel serves them well but one which encourages empathy from others.”

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During what hours of the day do you feel most inspired?

Anytime…it depends on my mood.

How would a good friend describe your aesthetic or style?

I asked a good friend how she would describe my aesthetic and she said that it was “pa-thetic”.

What aspect of your creative practice gives you the biggest thrill?

I love the writing process, although it isn’t until I have finished the script that I realise how much I enjoyed writing it and I love, love, love, love working with actors.  Connecting with actors and collaborating with them to shape a performance and a character is something that excites me.  I’m also very much pro-crew. After working at Filmcrews part time for the last 5 years I’ve become familiar with most crew in New Zealand and how valuable their contribution is.

How does your environment affect your work?

My environment, background, family, relationships and culture deeply affect the themes I explore in my work.  Returning to Mangere to live for a year after living outside the area for almost 15 years  reminded me of the stories, people, themes I am really passionate about.

Do you like to look at the big picture or focus on the details?

I am very methodical which is a blessing and a curse. This means that I tend to become engrossed in the details.  However, I do usually have a bigger plan and I’d like to think that the details contribute to successfully attaining this plan!

What's your number one business tip for surviving (and thriving) in the creative industries?

I am probably not the best person to ask about this! My projects have been labour of loves rather than profit making ventures…hopefully the future will bring experiences where the two are not mutually exclusive!

Which of your projects to date has given you the most satisfaction?

Milk & Honey. I had a few objectives when making Milk & Honey.  They were:

To tell a story about an experience from a Pasifika perspective that would appeal to people with varied worldviews.

For Milk & Honey to screen to a New Zealand audience.

For Milk & Honey to be accepted into at least one A-List festival.

Milk & Honey is currently showing at the New Zealand Film Festival and has screened at Palm Springs ShortFest. I also hope that I have made a film that Pasifika feel serves them well but one which encourages empathy from others.

Who or what has inspired you recently?

My family inspire me every day.  Their stories are varied and incredible and inspire many of my stories.  Some of the films I’ve seen at the NZ Film Festival have inspired me as well.  I really enjoyed Where Do We Go Now? which I felt revealed the sacrifices women will make for their loved ones.  I was also moved by Amour as I felt it explored an experience familiar to many but in a way which we haven’t seen on the big screen.  I thought it was a brave film.

Tell us a bit about your background.

I am a New Zealand born Geordie/Samoan.  I come from a large family (10 siblings) with varied cultural backgrounds; Samoan, Geordie, Cook Island, Tahitian, New Zealand Pakeha.  I was raised in South Auckland, between Manurewa and Mangere, and have lived in Auckland most of my life.

Tell us a bit about your film, from inception to conception.

Milk & Honey is loosely based around my Mother and Father’s experience during the Dawn Raid period in the 1970s.  It is therefore a very personal story. I was only told about their experience 4 years ago and I was surprised and concerned that so much pain still existed.  As I researched the period in more depth and explored how it had been represented on our screens I realised that other than documentaries we did not have a drama which not only captured this period but also the experience from a Pasifika perspective. 

What do you hope the audience takes away from it?

I hope that the audience empathises with Pasifika and this experience. Trauma can be collective, historical and intergenerational.  I hope that it makes people think again when they hear the phrase “why can’t we just move on” and that they consider sometimes this is easier said than done.

If you could go back and choose a completely different career path to the one you've chosen, what would it be?

I left the fashion and beauty industry to finally pursue film which I have always loved.  I wouldn’t change a thing!

What place is always with you, wherever you go?

Rather than a place, it is my family and my ancestors that are with me wherever I go.

What's the best way to listen to music, and why?

My music, played really loud, is usually accompanied by my very loud singing.  I get lost in some songs.

You are given a piece of string, a stick and some fabric. What do you make?

A vertical freezer.

What's the best stress relief advice you've ever been given?

Have lots of sex.

What’s great about the NZ International Film Festival?

Watching incredible films at the Civic.

What’s your big idea for 2013?

Watch this space…

* * * The Big Idea 10th Birthday Questions * * *

What does The Big Idea mean to you?

Interesting articles, ways to advertise for crew, grants and awards watch list.

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* Festival programmers Bill Gosden and Michael McDonnell viewed 109 submissions to make a shortlist of 12 from which filmmaker Roger Donaldson selected these six finalists. A jury of three, Actress Robyn Malcolm, filmmaker Sima Urale, and Madman Entertainment representative Michael Eldred, will select the $5000 Jury Prize winner and $3000 Friends of the Civic Award. The winner of the Audience vote takes away 25% of the box office from the Festival screening. 

The winners will be announced on Saturday 4 August at the Closing Night of the NZIFF in Auckland.

New Zealand’s Best next showing is at Dunedin Thursday 9 August, and will continue to screen around the country as part of the New Zealand International Film Festival.

Written by

The Big Idea Editor

2 Aug 2012

The Big Idea Editor

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