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Reflecting on Success

  • Amberley Jo Aumua

You’ve no doubt heard of ‘Waiting’ – the short film that took out Best Short Film at the New Zealand International Film Festival. After this success we sat down with Amberley Jo Aumua to get her thoughts on Waiting, Unitec, and what’s next.

‘Waiting’ has been selected for a wide range of festivals in the past year. What’s been the highlight for you?

The whole experience really. It’s been a blessing to represent Waiting in Aotearoa and around the world. The opportunity to share my journey with my mum at TIFF, going to Tonga to present Waiting at the Nuku’alofa Film Festival and then to my people in south Auckland at the Pollywood Pasifika Film Festival is some of the experiences I value the most.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on Vai – eight stories about the journey of empowerment through culture, over the lifetime of one woman, Vai. Producers Kerry Warkia and Kiel McNaughton of Brown Sugar Apple Grunt Productions are at the helm of Vai. The film will be written and directed by ‘Ofa-ki-Levuka Guttenbeil-Likiliki, Becs Arahanga, Dianna Fuemana, Marina Alofagia McCartney, Mīria George, Matasila Freshwater, Sharon Whippy with Nicole Whippy and myself. Each has an indigenous ancestral connection to one of seven countries in the South Pacific: Aotearoa, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Fiji, Cook Islands, and Niue. Filming will take place on each Island. It’s a subject very close to both my heart and my home -- I hope Vai will achieve an insight and understanding into the beautiful, yet conflicting world of Pasifika women.

Do you feel the pressure is on you to move onto another project relatively quickly because of the success of ‘Waiting’?

There is external pressure for me to keep creating and to be current. But I don’t let it get in the way of my creative process and voice. I don’t like forcing my ideas, I’d rather let them sit and stew for a bit until it reveals itself. Then when I’m ready I will tell it. However, outside of writing and directing, I have worked and supported many Pasifika productions.

I’m currently working with fellow Unitec Screen Arts Graduates Maria Vai and Anevili Taualai-Skelton on organising an event about film and filmmaking to bring to the young people of west and south Auckland. Unfortunately, much of the industry is about who you know which makes a lot of these practices and discussions inaccessible to our wider community.

What role has your time at Unitec played in your ongoing success?

Studying at Unitec I was able to create, try different things, fail and learn in a safe environment. I graduated with skills and knowledge that have helped prepared me for the real world of filmmaking. It was also at Unitec that I was mentored and supported by directing tutor Dorthe Scheffmann and found some of my closest collaborators.

What can you see yourself doing in a year’s time?

I see myself in a year’s time, five years’ time, doing what I’m doing now. Telling stories that I’m passionate about, working within my Manurewa community, and collaborating with my peers to bring our Pasifika voice to the forefront on-screen. I’m also currently researching and writing my feature film.

So far this year Waiting has appeared at the following film festivals: Tampere (Finland), Te Kuki Airani (Cook Islands) and Maoriland (Otaki, NZ). Last year it was selected for six film festivals, including Pollywood Pasifika (Auckland, NZ), Wairoa Maori (Wairoa), Nuku’alofa (Tonga), New Zealand International (Auckland, NZ), Toronto International (Canada) and Show Me Shorts (Auckland, NZ). It has won the following honours: NZIFF Best Short winner (2017), Show Me Shorts Best Student Film winner (2017).

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