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Activism has more often shaped non-mainstream documentary making within Australasia/Oceania than have underground influences. Activist documentaries may be informed by radical motives based on ‘‘grassroots’’ issues; anger or frustration with prevailing hegemonies; a committed belief in social change through action and consciousness; and/or a godardian sense of not only making political films, but making films politically (the politics of form, production, and distribution are as important as the politics of content). Integral to the activist tradition has been the

Trade Union strand of documentaries. Cecil Holmes directed Fighting Back (1949) after his suspension for Communist Party membership from the government-run National Film Unit (NFU). The documentary was publicized by the Carpenter’s Union as ‘‘the first on-the-spot film of an industrial dispute ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere.’’ Fighting Back enabled Holmes to break out of the mould of Weekly Review items and experiment more with dramatic reenactments, as well as articulate his political views indepen-

dently of an institution. In 1949, Holmes left for Australia to continue making films ‘‘his way.’’ Themes of workers dissatisfied with union offi-

cials and their ties to the state are echoed within a number of documentaries made during the early 1980s. Wildcat (1981) was the first documentary made by Vanguard Films (Alister Barry, Russell Campbell, and Rod Prosser). The longest-running documentary collective in New Zealand, if not Oceania, Vanguard Films is still producing work. Wildcat, about the Timberworkers’ fight for a democratic union structure, is notable for its approach to collective interviewing techniques, the insertion of montage commentaries that work to elicit both affective and critical identification, and the use of sound in counterpoint to the visual track. MerGer Productions’s The Bridge: A Story of

Men in Dispute, was also finished in 1981. Directors Gerd Pohlmann and Merata Mita had made a number of documentaries together about struggles for Maaoritanga (Maaori culture) and trade union movements. The Carpenter’s Union appears again in this film, but the inclusion of excerpts from

Fighting Back has an ironic function. This time the union secretary is seen by members of the rankand-file to be part of the problem. The voice-over of Zac Wallace, a protagonist-worker, gives narrative cohesion to a ranging story. It is also a story with layers, and his ambivalence can be read as the ambivalence of a Maaori perspective toward union structures. Alister Barry’s 1996 documentary Someone

Else’s Country (SEC) examined the effects of neo-liberal restructuring and its implications for democracy in Aotearoa. Commentary about the erosion of unions and dissipation of worker solidarity is tied to an analysis of the incursions of transnational corporations and global capital into the New Zealand economy. Despite having an obvious point of view, the uncomplicated expositional narrative (distinct from Wildcat’s dialectical structure) invites an analogy with current affairs documentary. The documentary was narrowcast on community television stations around the country; video copies were distributed through Vanguard Films and a bookstore chain with shops nationwide (thousands of copies were sold for domestic and community-group viewing). There were town hall screenings, and the leftoriented Alliance Party endorsed the documentary as part of its preelection publicity campaign. The stylistic choices made were strategic, and this, together with historical conjuncture (the documentary was released a few months before the 1996 general election), contributed to the unprecedented scale of audience reception for a nonbroadcast documentary. Merata Mita directed Patu! (1983) and co-direc-

ted Bastion Point: Day 507 (1980) alongside Leon Narbey and Gerd Pohlmann. Both documentaries are crucial for the traditions of Maaori and indigenous filmmaking and share many formal characteristics: observational-style handheld camera, expressively textured sound tracks, ironic or associative juxtaposition in editing (sound-image/ image-image), borrowed and resurrected film stock, sequences of photographic montage, inclusion of radio commentary, and the sparing use of Mita’s voice-over narration. Differences between the documentaries lie in Bastion Point focusing on the struggle over land rights for Ngati Whatua o Orakei (the Auckland tribal group leading the occupation), and Patu! needing to accommodate a range of community interests involved in national and indigenous struggles over identity. In the case of the former, Mita could readily locate herself as a Maaori woman making a documentary about Maaori issues, whereas Patu! focused on the anti-

Springbok Tour protests of 1981 and was made with the principal intention of holding a mirror up to race relations and state governance in New Zealand society. One overriding irony not lost on the documentary was that it took protest against apartheid in South Africa to act as a catalyst for anti-racist protest within Aotearoa. Other important strands of activist documentary

include the feminist films of the 1970s and 1980s that worked to emphasize women-in-community and consciousness-raising (see Shepard, 2000). Some of My Best Friends Are Women (1975), I Want to Be Joan (1978), and Even Dogs Are Given Bones: Women Workers Fight Back, Rixen NZ (1981) give some indication of the range of work produced during this time, from personal growth narratives to the power of collective action. In the manner of situationist bricolage, gay filmmaker Stewart Main’s Captive State (1986) offers a provocative set of associations between the Indonesian oppression of East Timor, the silence of New Zealand government and media, and the obliviousness of New Zealanders held in the thrall of consumerism. A subtextual element of the film associates the oppression of the Timorese with the more subtle forms of oppression operating within a homophobic society, insensitive to difference.