Personal story about P addiction the focus of new short film

By Jessica Tyson

Te Koru Media - Aroha Awarau, Jennifer-Te Atamira Ward-Lealand and Peata Melbourne - is about to start shooting its first short film.

Called Disrupt, it will explore the devastation that methamphetamine has on a family and follows an elderly Māori woman's desperation to help an addict overcome his problem.

Award-winning journalist Awarau is the writer and says the grandmother in the story is the only one who hasn’t lost hope about her mokopuna.

“I’ve been in a situation where I had a brother who had an addiction problem who passed away 13 years ago and he was ostracised and disconnected from our whānau. So he passed away and you always had the question 'what if we tried a little harder?'. So the main question of this film is 'Can nanny save her moko?'.”

Awarau and producer Melbourne have worked in print and television media for a combined total of 30 years. Throughout their careers, they have been in homes of many whānau across Aotearoa who have entrusted them to tell their deeply personal stories of how the P epidemic has destroyed their lives.

Awarau says, “I wanted to put it into a fictional film, a personal story about a nanny trying to get her moko off P and also I’ve been affected, so this drug has touched a lot of people in Aotearoa, especially my own whanau and I’ve seen the struggles that some of my close family members have gone through tackling this issue.”

The filmmakers say statistics show that 138,000 New Zealanders are using P.

“That's the population of Tauranga, or the cities of Napier and Hastings combined. Those hooked on P are spending more than $1.4 million in cash every day on their addiction.”

Awarau hopes it will spark discussion and get people to talk about the issue.

“We do talk about this issue but it’s not going away and it hasn’t gone away," he says.

New Zealander of the Year 2020 Jennifer Te Atamira Ward-Lealand is the director of the film and is one of New Zealand’s most accomplished actors and theatre directors, with a career of more than 35 years. 

Awarau says he, Melbourne and Ward-Lealand have had long personal and working relationships. Their first creative project together was on Provocation.

“It was a play that we produced in Auckland in February and, from that experience, we found that out at the end we were still friends and we still like each other. So we thought 'let’s do this again let’s go on this journey creative journey again,' and something that’s very close and personal to all of us and to many people.”

To fund the short film they have started a Boosted fundraising campaign to raise $20,000.

“It takes a village to make a short film and the putea (money) is really important. We want to pay our cast and crew.”

So far $14,000 has been donated by more than 82 people.

“This goes to show that people are on board with this kaupapa and are really supporting the cause.”

Awarau says they will start shooting the film in April 2021.