31 Aug 2017

Loading Docs: Union

2:59 pm on 31 August 2017

A young Māori outsider living in Japan tackles cultural isolation using the universal language of rugby.


Union has been released as part of Loading Docs - a launchpad for short New Zealand documentaries.


Tell us a bit about yourself. What inspired you to get into film?

When I was five years old, I lived in a small town on the West Coast of the South Island where the only place to hire a video was the corner shop. They only had about six tapes. It was probably sometime during my 200th viewing of Jurassic Park that I realised there was someone behind the camera deciding what happens next and that maybe I could be that guy one day. 

As I grew up, I became massively more pragmatic and decided that because feature film work was going to be a little difficult to come by, I should study in a field with a guaranteed job out of university, reliable hours, big money, and plenty of opportunities for advancement.  

I'm of course talking about documentary filmmaking.

How did Union come about?

The story of Union is the personal story of a friend of mine, Jared James, who I met as we were both moving to Japan.

Being reduced to illiteracy is difficult, but the cultural isolation is in many ways a more pernicious problem. I saw Jared struggling to adjust, battling with these issues and eventually overcoming them.

Watching him transform physically and mentally was really inspiring to me as I struggled to adjust to Japanese society. The catalyst for this change was his decision to have a practice session with a Japanese rugby team and I followed the story.  

I thought would make a compelling film and I think it has.

With rugby being the national sport of New Zealand, what was it like capturing the rugby culture in a  foreign land?

Japanese rugby culture mirrors New Zealand rugby culture in many ways. The tight bonds forged on the field are equally important in Japan. The level of trust and support given and received seem to be a universal part of what makes the game great. It brings together people from different social strata letting accountants and builders and bank managers and teachers interact and find unlikely friendships. It was a pleasure meeting these guys. 

Even in Japan, the All Blacks get so much respect that as New Zealanders we have an easy in with them.

What are some of your future goals and aspirations with your practice?

My talented collaborator Joshua Rollo and I are working on a number of projects right now with the long-term goal of dominating the global film and television market and with the mid-term goal of producing a full-length feature film.

All I want to do is tell stories which move people; that is my truest aspiration. Every medium and genre contains unique opportunities to do this effectively, whether it's documentary or dramatic filmmaking, television or web-series, comedy or action. 

I very humbly hope to explore as much territory within these spectra as I am able to. I am so grateful for the opportunities I've had so far and I very much look forward to telling more great stories soon.

Interview with Chev Hassett.