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The Asian Diaspora in New Zealand Film: Conceptualising Asian New Zealand Cinema

New Zealand is officially described, and effectively operated, as a bicultural nation guided by the Treaty of Waitangi. Nonetheless, this society of four and a half million people also appears markedly multicultural and multi-ethnic at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The shifting demographics of New Zealand and its ethnically diverse composition have, in the last decade, rekindled debates about the role of creative and cultural production in the representation and construction of new narratives for the nation. New Zealand scholars have recognised the potential of film (screen media) for creating ‘the imagined community’ by referring to the scarce representations of ethnic communities in New Zealand, and also to the stereotyped images in other media forms that reinforce the enduring discourses of exclusion in representing the nation. Nevertheless, there have been healthy signs in recent years of media productions being made by New Zealanders of ethnic descent that attempt to represent a wider range of social and cultural experiences amongst the contemporary population. As more people from different backgrounds commit to a future in New Zealand, some feel the need to reflect publically on their experience of migration and diaspora. The desire to shape their related experiences and perspectives into various forms of media and visual culture has fed some notable works in contemporary New Zealand. Consequently, emerging Asian diasporic talents, and the voices of filmmakers who have presented alternative world views, identities and cultures in the dominantly Europeanised New Zealand cultural and social arenas, have become evident. This research project is based on the premise that there has been an increasing visibility of filmmakers with a migratory background in New Zealand film and cinema, and also a growing sense of cultural diversity in New Zealand society. The thesis speaks of an ‘Asian New Zealand’ arena which is a relatively recent possibility, and fundamentally engages with exploring and conceptualising a group of diasporic films and filmmakers as aspects of ‘Asian New Zealand cinema’, which in a broader sense reflects manifold social realities within contemporary New Zealand as whole. This is the first study of (Asian) diasporic films in New Zealand and, therefore, creates a foundation for investigation of this type of film and filmmaking within New Zealand cinema scholarship. By foregrounding an emerging group of films and filmmakers that have delineated important aesthetic, cultural, social, gendered and political complexities in the New Zealand social and cinematic imaginary over the last decade, the thesis advances New Zealand film scholarship by highlighting the roles diasporic films can play, as well as perspectives they can provide in responding to the increasing reality of cultural diversity in New Zealand at a social level, particularly through the lens of Diaspora Studies. This research utilises theories and concepts of diaspora, which over the last two decades have served many functions within film and cinema scholarship; in particular, they have spoken to the ways in which films made and written by directors and writers with a migratory background can be understood, interpreted and studied. My research innovates in the area of diasporic film studies specifically by paying attention to the diasporic film viewer or audience. Previous diasporic cinema studies have largely assigned a primary role to the diasporic author and the diasporic text as a series of wide-ranging relationships in which the filmmaker’s migratory background and deterritorialised locations affect various aspects of the cinematic productions and the text. Given my interest in foregrounding the concept of Asian New Zealand film and its power to offer a platform for multilayered dialogues between diasporic subjects and the New Zealand host society, I was drawn to exploring what kinds of relationships exist between the diasporic audience/viewer and the diasporic film. In this way, my project enriches these conversations by bringing the notion of diasporic audiences as significant meaning-making bodies to diasporic cinema studies. This thesis follows the ‘PhD with Publication’ scheme and therefore needs to be read and understood in this manner. It presents a collection of five scholarly articles and one book chapter which are interconnected and linked to the research’s central goal: conceptualising Asian New Zealand cinema.
Type of thesis
Zalipour, A. (2015). The Asian Diaspora in New Zealand Film: Conceptualising Asian New Zealand Cinema (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/10289/9831
University of Waikato
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