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Queer life with a Maori perspective

Thu 29 Apr 2004 In: Television View at NDHA

At the beginning of July, with the launch of the Takataapui programme on the Maori Television Service, there will be a doubling of the TV time that is aimed at the gay, lesbian and transgendered audience in New Zealand. And if you think that the programme will only appeal to hard-core speakers of Te Reo, think again. This is a lively version of queer-life, Aotearoa style, that is guaranteed to appeal not only to its intended Maori audience, but also to the wider community. Claudette Hauiti's Front Of The Box Productions has been funded to produce 26 episodes of Takataapui. It is also making five other series for the Maori Television Service at its offices in Grey Lynn, which contain a full production facility with studio plus edit and audio suites. There is a whanau-feel to the both the facility and teams who work here, but it is a hard-working whanau. Takataapui is 26 minutes of television that must be produced every week on a small budget. There are the shoots, the edits, the audio and the on-line and offline creation of a programme for broadcast. Episode 3 of Takataapui is currently in production. A preview edit is screening on a small television set in Hauiti's office. Each episode of the series has been planned and they're getting things shot early, in preparation for the July launch of the show. They've also got a new concept to deliver in a new way. The production team is shaping the programme's feel to reflect the audience and the presenters of the programme are learning how to communicate with these new viewers. On screen, in Hauiti's office, are the programme's three presenters. There is Taurewa Biddle, the programme's language expert. There is Tanya Simon, actress, famous for having nearly kissed Lucy Lawless in the short movie “Peach.” And there is Ramon Te Wake, transgendered singer and performer. They're guiding this particular episode. It is structured around the transgendered community and it is a multi-faceted look at that world. There is a coming out and growing-up segment featuring Natasha, filled with her insights and good-humoured commentary about growing up Maori and transgendered. There is a profile of Roxanne and a story about the Cartier Bereavement Fund which details some the complexities involved in transgendered tangi. And there is a segment that explains of some of the language involved. ‘We are actually making a new vocabulary,' explains Hauiti. ‘One of the big things in the programme is the development and revitalisation of the language.' It is an interesting job. Using the language skills of Rangi Black – ‘She's Tuhoi and they're good with words' - the programme team has to create equivalents for English words. ‘Like ‘dental dams', ‘rimming' and ‘glory holes',' comments one of the programme's producers, Anne Speir. ‘And the words must be user-friendly, to be actually used by people,' Hauiti adds. At present the programme is hitting around the 30% mark in terms of Te Reo content. It's aiming for 50% with the help of subtitling. Each episode of Takataapui will be divided into a number of segments. It is deliberately a bright, fast mix, bouncing from one item to another with the help of the presenters. ‘It's a lot of threads weaving together,' says Hauiti of the programme's structure. There is the He Take or ‘issues' segment which explores the theme of each episode in depth. There is the ‘He Tangata' slot which is stories of ‘awareness' or coming out. But in between there are a number of short, fun items that range from entertaining - the way gays and lesbians walk, for example, or voxpops from the sometimes hilariously ill-informed public - to informative, with a language segment that explains some of the words, and an item on HIV/AIDS awareness produced in co-operation with the New Zealand AIDS Foundation. ‘It isn't only a programme for us,' Hauiti says, of its queer audience, ‘but it is also a programme for the whole Maori community... This was recognised by our funders, Te Mangai Paho. The programme deals in issues which have to be looked at by the whole community, ranging from tangi and HIV, to homophobia and suicide. So the programme isn't just a queer thing, it's a step forward for Maori in general.' It is also the newest advance in television in New Zealand aimed at a gay, lesbian and transgendered audience. ‘We are very mindful of our whakapapa, of Queer Nation as our forerunner,' says Hauiti. ‘It was the forefront of queer programming in this country.' Takataapui has arrangements with Queer Nation, and with Pacific Island programme Tangata Pasifika to share in archive-materials, but resemblance to its forerunners stops there. Takataapui is creating a programme is a vision of the queer communities through Maori eyes. And based on the quality of the episodes of Takataapui that the Maori Television Service have seen they have decided to increase the series to 40 episodes, if funding can be gained. Anne Speir is also enthusiastic about the quality of the product. ‘It will be benchmark TV,' she says, ‘but one of the things that will keep us on air is community support. If people, when they see it, decide that it is good and something they want to see more of, they need to let MTS know by e-mail, phone-calls or letters.' Takataapui is going to air in July, but has no official launch date. It will, however, be screened in a 9:30 slot on a Thursday. - 29th April 2004    


First published: Thursday, 29th April 2004 - 12:00pm

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