East to East shows Chinese community

COMMUNITY: Documentary maker Julie Zhu’s grandmother is one of the main people featured in East to East. Photo supplied

East Auckland is set for community fame after Julie Zhu’s documentary East to East was ranked in the top 10 of a nationwide filmmaking competition focusing on diversity.

East to East highlights the various experiences of Chinese immigrants in east Auckland and how they have dealt with assimilation into a foreign society.

Born in China and raised in Auckland, the keen Botany filmmaker has written and directed several short films, was the 2016 Producer in Residence at Basement Theatre and gained her honours in screen production at Auckland University.

During her time at university, the 24-year-old spent many hours travelling on buses from east to central, and that’s where the idea was sparked to create the documentary.

“When the elderly Chinese people got on the bus, they looked like the best of friends… but if you knew the language, you’d know it’s just, ‘hey, how are you’.

You’d know it’s actually the first time they’ve met.”

Ms Zhu’s own grandmother, 79-year-old Fang Ruzhen, immigrated to Auckland to help raise her grandchildren.

Fifteen years on, English is still a foreign language to her, but she has found community with other elderly Chinese expats on her weekly bus rides to the Asian supermarkets of east Auckland.

Ms Zhu is hoping the documentary, created with producer Tema Pua and director of photography Kelly Chen, will be the start of a greater social shift.

“Often the social discourse around immigrants is about what they offer our society and how they affect or improve our economy, but they are people too,” says Ms Zhu.

“There’s no one New Zealand identity or Kiwi identity…some immigrants don’t assimilate and that’s okay. They are still New Zealand citizens. That’s what truly embracing diversity means – not just for people who act like you.”

The three-minute documentary is supported by Loading Docs – a unique initiative that produces documentaries and gives local documentary makers a platform.

Crowdfunding for the documentary is open till March 31, and Ms Zhu said her aim is to purchase the right equipment, hire translators and facilitate free public screenings with any additional money raised past the $2000 base goal.

East to East will be completed in early June.