This is the unedited transcript
[00:14:11.320] – Lloyd
Thank you, Kate, for your time. And welcome to the podcast.
[00:14:25.660] – Tahu
We can start. Yeah, we can start. Are you good? Yeah, we’re good. Are you ready? I’m really good.
[00:14:29.400] – Lloyd
So welcome to the podcast. And thank you for your time. I know you’re busy and you’re doing your traveling. Kate and for you, Tahu, you’re doing your editing and you still find time for.
[00:14:39.320] – Tahu
This podcast. Yeah, no worries.
[00:14:41.750] – Lloyd
How are you doing, Kate?
[00:14:43.690] – Kate
Good. Staying warm. We’ve got lots of snow on our mountains this morning, so it’s beautiful to look at.
[00:14:52.430] – Lloyd
Thank you. Tahu, how are you doing?
[00:14:54.480] – Tahu
Yeah, all good. Just trying to keep warm, trying to make sure that we keep working as well.
[00:15:00.710] – Lloyd
[00:15:00.970] – Tahu
Been cold lately. Yeah, it’s been really cold lately. It’s not as cold as Wanaka, but it’s cold.
[00:15:06.040] – Lloyd
Oh, yeah. What’s the temperature in Wanaka? You’re in Wanaka, right?
[00:15:10.040] – Kate
We’re lucky if we get above zero at the moment. It should be up. It’s just quite nice for the minute. What is it? Let me see. I’ll probably find out. But it’s been below… Oh, no. This is quite warm. We’re at four degrees. Oh.
[00:15:28.270] – Lloyd
They’re still cold for me, being Filipino, Asian, going to New Zealand.
[00:15:33.900] – Tahu
[00:15:34.880] – Lloyd
I remember my boss telling me, Why are you still in jacket? Because it’s cold. No, it’s summer. No, I feel cold.
[00:15:44.830] – Tahu
[00:15:46.970] – Lloyd
Okay, so I guess we can start. Kate, you can tell us about yourself.
[00:15:52.490] – Kate
Well. Thank you for having us both. A little bit about me. I am a Nāthine, Nātywaia woman on my father’s side, and he was raised in the Swamps of Wai’u up in the Bay of Islands. On my mother’s side, she is a very hardy, Scot, Irish, English woman who was raised in the bottom of New Zealand, I’m just so proud of where I am from and I’m just so proud of where I live. Where I was raised as well, so I always start off with a māhi to them, and I’m very blessed to have a wonderful husband and two beautiful children of ours, as well as the many others who have come to live with us over the years. It’s a little bit about me. And for the minute, we’re living, well, for a long time, hopefully, we’ll be staying here in Wanaka. We’re a whanaka. We’re a whanaka that have moved around a lot in response to different kauwhapa around the Moutu, around Aotearoa. So yeah, thank you for having us. Yeah, and.
[00:17:15.710] – Lloyd
[00:17:17.170] – Tahu
Kiaura. My name is Tahuarua, O’hiwa is my name. He’s a man of the Nkaiwhaka, Nkaiwhaka, Nkaiwhaka, Nkaiwhaka. Because we’ve got so many lovely tribes that I’m also descended by and I would love to list them off, but I can’t take it. It’ll take over the whole interview, I reckon. He’s a man of theMauritland, Kauau here, filmmaker, animator, whakari tutor, and storyteller. Thank you.
[00:17:57.360] – Lloyd
I love the way that you have your own tribes and you can trace it back to… Yeah, I like that. I trace.
[00:18:05.870] – Tahu
My ancestors. I would love to trace back, but I think it’ll take over the whole… Yeah, that’s okay. My father are watching us and it’s what’s important. I tiptoe in as I still watching.
[00:18:18.430] – Lloyd
All right. So tell us about your story, Kate, in terms of your journey of autism. When did this start?
[00:18:26.860] – Kate
Well, it’s just having first having tukwui, our first daughter, and then with Tahu coming along in 1998. The journey, it doesn’t start at a certain point when we recognize something in Tahu. We were just so blessed to have him, full stop. For us, our children were raised in Kuhangario, in the Māori medium education system. As a mama, but also a kaiako, we were part of a movement. Tangaroa was actually raised as a baby in a very dynamic environment that was extremely colorful, full of rail. And even back then, and he was completely engaged and aware about the age of two to suddenly just stopped talking, and would just be very watchful. And we found that quite… I mean, he was very also… I had him on my back most of the time because I was a teacher and our little girl was there, so I’m running around, I had this baby on my back, who was clearly just observing everything. And also because tahoro is also blessed to be at the time being the only son, and brother, and nephew, and grandson, because we have many, many girls, we just put down some of his behavior at the time, growing up to, Oh, this must be just how boys are.
[00:19:53.550] – Kate
He had stopped talking. Hes taking just… And we also recognize that everybody develops at their own pace. So we weren’t so much worried about things like toileting, we weren’t worried about speaking. We thought, well, in time, in his own time, he’ll come to this. However, starting school, he was so anxious to start school, and education is such a big part of our lives. He was very, very close to me and did not enjoy his first day of school. We sent him off with a sister and yet she would escape out the window, would be swinging out. I remember going into something, he was hanging out of a window, the teacher hadn’t noticed. And he constantly wanted to come home as a wee one. And I know there’s something still not right here. And then it took a while. We were in Hamilton at the time, in Kirikiro, and we shifted to Papua Moa. At the time we were actually preparing to go overseas and our children were raised in Kaupapa. So Māori language is their first language. However, we had an opportunity at the time we thought we were going to take to go to Michigan.
[00:21:06.680] – Kate
So we moved back to Benttham, to my husband’s, Homelands and Papua Moa and Taurangawa. We enrolled the kids in English, medium school, so they could learn English and get used to being around English. So it was there, and Tahu would never… He couldn’t sit. He wasn’t loud, and he wasn’t disruptive, but he wouldn’t sit. He wouldn’t sit. He would just be quietly just doing his own thing, or he would sleep and sleep, and sleep. And so then it was a teacher that said, Look, I’m wondering if your son has autism, and I’d heard of it and didn’t even think about it. Tahu is Tahu. So then we went on the journey, and that’s when it started. So it was one teacher, and from there we just quickly moved to find resources to look for information, anything. There was nothing for Māori, there was nothing at the time. There was nothing. And I had one friend who worked in a at the uni, who when we went to a tangi, a funeral, a Māori funeral, Tahu was more interested in speaking to the coverings and just not engaging with anybody. She said, I have one piece of research that you should look at.
[00:22:29.390] – Kate
And you get all these checklists, and we’re just ticking every single one around engagement and all sorts of things, social engagement, et cetera. And we just started our journey there. Not an easy one. Our boy at the time, we realized, once I realized that his Kaira Nuiro experience would have been quite traumatic. It was so colorful, and loud and all those things that we just hadn’t known about. And so for years he had managed somehow to stay with us to be a loving, beautiful son. However, he was carrying quite a lot because he was unable to filter what he was seeing and hearing. And so we always think about Tahu in those formative years, wow, what a strong soul that is to carry that little body.
[00:23:25.720] – Lloyd
How about for you, Tahu? What’s the journey like for you in the in your eyes as an autistic person?
[00:23:33.650] – Tahu
It was just started out normal to be honest. Like my mom said, it was just normal. And then as I got two years old, yeah, I stopped talking. But a way to communicate with my parents and a way to communicate with other people is that I used to quote a lot of movies from a lot of movies. I quote them from The Iron Giant, Dresic Park, even some cartoons from Nicolaideon and Disney channel. I used to quote them all the time and that’s how I communicate with my parents and with everyone else, everyone always found it odd. But there was also my interests, falling in love with animation, cartoons. The Iron Giant is possibly that helped me to get into the world and helped me get into filming, to voice act as well, and to edit. It’s so awesome. Because when Mom got the DVD, I just watched it every night. I watched it every night and I just loved it. Vin diesel’s performance as the giant made me felt like me. Actually, I related to the giant because everything was new to him when he landed on Earth. And even though he had lost his memories, he still felt like he was exploring the world.
[00:25:15.120] – Tahu
That’s why I related to the Iron Giant because I loved how he just finds random things. When he finds a car, he’ll just chew on them because he always eats metal. Metal is his kai. That’s like me. I have my own specific food. I’ve never eaten rice or a warm, home-cooked meal. It’ll just be spaghetti and cheese. Just the same as the Iron giants. He eats metal and my food would always be spaghetti and cheese. Because that’s my hobby that I love doing. Dresic Park just got me into like… It was my science back in the day. I loved getting into zoology and paleo, learning about dinosaurs as well. Also just being fascinated by like… My mind was just fascinated by how did people do this? Another way to communicate with my parents was they’re like, I quote a lot of sounds and roars and growls from dinosaurs. Then I just responded back to my mom. My mom would think like, Don’t you use that attitude on me? I’m like, What? I’m just saying raw. Because yeah, raw. Yeah. Having my experience on the spectrum for the first time, it was hard reading people. I never read people’s body language or when they have these signs, come here or stay or move back.
[00:27:04.600] – Tahu
I’m like, What’s that? I always look at them odd. When people show me body language or quoting something, I always say to myself, Go to the room. What movie is that? I always figure out what movie was that? Because I didn’t understand it. I didn’t understand where that came from, and then that’s when I was introduced to books.
[00:27:29.390] – Lloyd
Right. Every time you want to have a conversation, you’re trying to relate it into a book. Sorry, into a movie thing. Into a.
[00:27:36.500] – Tahu
Movie, yeah. I was never good at maths as well because the only maths that I could do was watching movies and looking at the size and measuring the table. How big is this table? I didn’t know how to do numbers. I was really scared because the only time I only did numbers was I did the usual 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. And that’s all I could do. I did not know what other numbers there were and I didn’t even know that having 10, there are more numbers beyond that. Because we only learned about 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. It’s hard talking to kids as well, like talking to or making friends. I always get nervous. Would I say something offensive or would I be scared? What would my response be? Should I talk like a dinosaur? Should I quote Jesic Park? Should I quote The Iron Giant? Should I quote Mrs. Doubfire? That’s just… Man. I just did not know what to do at that time. That’s why I was so silent, because everyone had random words. It was random words talking. I remember saying to my mom, What are we going to do?
[00:29:07.430] – Tahu
I had to quote that from a movie, and then my mom just told me, Just keep learning. Keep learning. But then that’s when my attitude came and then school rang up my mom, just wondering like, I’ve been writing Rex in my maths books, in my spelling books, in my English books. That’s the only word I could write because I can’t write other words. All I can spell was Rex because Rex was the closest thing that I could get to.
[00:29:44.350] – Lloyd
[00:29:44.760] – Tahu
One in the movie, right? Yeah, that’s the one in the movie too. That’s the one in the movie because I quote Rex all the time and I just love it. I love it. My teachers found it odd, but I had no regrets.
[00:29:59.610] – Lloyd
Yeah, Yeah. For you, Kate, so how was it communicating with Tahu at that time, given that if you will be talking to him about something and he will respond in a movie scene?
[00:30:11.720] – Kate
We loved it. By the way, when you first… So being a real Māori speaking whanao, and then making that transition to an English space because we were trying to teach them, we thought that some of the developmental delays were around just transitioning. But we noticed that he wasn’t speaking either of the languages, Māori or English. I guess the sadness of the time is that we didn’t have… There were no resources. We didn’t have te reo Māori, speech language therapists. We couldn’t access educational psychologists who had te reo. We had to make a decision to keep tahu in a more of a white stream, mainstream environment so that we could do communication. But we just found that echolalia, which is the whole thing of you use certain words to get an outcome that you need. So if I was to travel to China, I would learn a certain phrase, knowing that that will get me to the public bathroom if I ask it, but I have no idea what it really means, right? I don’t know if I say it. There is a wicked intelligence that sets in kids who are on the spectrum, especially when they use echolalia.
[00:31:27.180] – Kate
So tawarua, using the scripts from film, we loved it. I mean, one of his first words, it wasn’t hello or mom. It was literally, Well, how would you know when he had a… He just came on and said it, and we’re like, What? And he just came in the room and then off he popped again, and we’re like, Okay. So it wasn’t something that… And so communicating with Tai, we found really easy because he was very close to us, so we kept him physically close. He was very physical. He had to be touching. And I think that really helped. I guess when the diagnosis came, I think what’s really important is to recognize that you do come with your own biases around what success will look like for your children. Especially if you grew up in… For us, education was important, being to uni. So you have these expectations around what success means, and it’s through your own. And so dropping that biases, I guess when that… To be fair, when the diagnosis came through, we were all absolutely exhausted, because by that time, he was probably just running around in mud, and completely… It was pretty hard.
[00:32:41.320] – Kate
But when it came through, I remember for a day, morning. Morning what I thought would be his future. And I had just to quickly just get over and go, Wow, we have to see. It’s another course. It’s going to be another set of successes. I’ve never been disappointed by that. So if anything, the journey enriches us. It helps us see the world through others’ eyes, and really keeps us in check on our own prejudices, what expectations should be. Those are, I mean, the ecalalia part of it, the communication. I feel for us has never been a problem with Taha. Anything that’s been a problem, it’s been accessing support for him, so he can be the best that he can be. And in the absence of that, we just as a whana, just wrap around. And he actually has always managed himself. We were super clear also that we were not to be… We said to him, he’s going to be this halfway because we travel a lot. And so other people were going to be racing him as well. He had a whole community that they pitched in.
[00:33:52.080] – Lloyd
And you talked about support. So after his diagnosis, what came after that? Did you get something from, let’s say, education or something from health system or from special school, which is very important as well, part of the backbone of the future of children?
[00:34:14.270] – Kate
I guess as a father, we’re quite forceful in saying we’re the center of his world, not the school and not the health system. That was a different way to look at it. And we got to choose our teachers. We had very… Tahoro all the way through has had the most amazing kaiako, amazing, who we all chose each other. And we had good education plans, and we also chose our schools. We had to choose the schools. So for Tahoro, when we lived in Papua Moa, and for our girl as well, not to exclude her either, we drove 13 to 14 kilometers a day to find the right school that would take care of her. That’s every day. We just drove. We passed three other schools because they were not going to be able to take care. So that was important. We put ourselves at the center. So we got really good support that way. And my mom was living with us, and she was very staunch about going to the meetings. The health system, we’d enrolled with the Māori health provider, and we’re very lucky we’re able to access psychologists, psychiatrists. However, their view is quite limited.
[00:35:32.980] – Kate
It’s limited, and they limit potential in the diagnosis because it’s very clinical. So it’s very, very clinical. And so when we had clinicians saying in front of him while he’s in the room and to me, Oh, well, he’s only passed one test around, what was it? Patterns. I’m afraid to say nothing else. He didn’t pass anything else on math or anything. Therefore, his limit will be this. We probably will evolve to seven, eight year old expectation and probably read and write. Oh, wait, stop it. We said thank you. We said thank you and just said, no, well, that won’t work for us. He has to read and he has to write, and he’s going to have to figure out the value of things. And so that was our journey. We’re grateful for the diagnosis because it did give us access to some… The school got access to resource help, which was great. We got a speech language therapist, but it was all very… I still feel it was the community. I’m very grateful, and I’m grateful to those teachers, especially. It was still the community that just no one thought twice, accepted, loved, just along with the every other kid, Ae tahu.
[00:36:59.980] – Tahu
Yeah, because there was a point in my life where I actually thought that maybe the medical center might be true. Because I remember feeling that way when I found out about it in high school, that medical centers have been helping parents and children who are diagnosed. Just thinking about that, I had a look at my mom and I’m like, Man, do people still say this stuff to us? She just says yes. She literally just says yes. That’s the heartbreaking truth that people are not getting so much help. Now when we go to other communities around Māori, Pacifica, and other indigenous ethnicity, we usually hear, cut it out, or, cut it out. Be normal. Can you stop fidgeting around? It’s all that stuff. We always have this thing about blaming parents. We always blame parents like, Well, you should have done more and more with your child, or you should have sent him to a better school, or maybe if he was brought up here, he wouldn’t have anything to do. Especially when it comes to our own whanau, not getting support as well instead of just medical center. Because that’s the reality that we want them to pull away from and really do their best to figure out what is autism.
[00:38:44.200] – Tahu
It’s not just autism as well. What is autism? What is ADHD? What is Tourette syndrome? All of those amazing abilities that these kids have, even down syndrome, we need to know that this isn’t a sickness or this isn’t something that you hear from mainstream medical center. This is something that they carry throughout their lives. This is something that they are going to evolve from. They just need to look beyond the 10. Look beyond the 10. That’s what I say. Yeah.
[00:39:29.900] – Lloyd
Yeah. And I think based on what you have told me, Kate, in terms of your fanout, you just focus on your fanout and you didn’t listen to what other people would say. No, he won’t be able to talk at some point or he can’t learn or whatever negative feedback you’re receiving, you just ignore that, and then you just focus that, which is cool. And I think that is what family is for, supporting the family and making sure that the family is well and healthy in that sense.
[00:40:04.100] – Kate
That’s right. I think there was one because there were the other the Tahu’s diagnosis was on the spectrum, but also global developmental delay. I came back and said, look, your son has an IQ of 46.
[00:40:22.440] – Kate
So what? Good on you for using that intelligence measurement, but he’s got all these other ones. So we’ll just ignore that one, too. And it is difficult because sometimes it’s tough to find the right language or… Is that coupled with that. He’s not on the high functioning end either, so he has all these, what could have been perceived as really material, huge challenges for his learning. Somehow, he was the most hardworking spirit. What they forget is that they have strong wairua, spirit, determination, a huge aroha, just gratefulness for being on the planet, all that that tahu brings outweighs these other challenges. And although it’s not going to be easy, and math is a real issue. We all work on it together. We all work on it together.
[00:41:24.600] – Lloyd
Going to your interest in films. Okay. Yeah. So how did you find that films are your interests?
[00:41:33.670] – Tahu
I think Robin Williams, RIP, I think I was so fascinated by that actor, Robin Williams. I watched him on Mrs. Delt Fire. And when I was watching his performance, I said to myself, Whoa, this man’s got like a milliona million voice, like a million voice in what he can do. And it was so amazing just watching him become this old woman trying to save his connection with his tamariki. I felt like that’s what mom, dad, and my grandma were trying to do. I just fell in love with Robin Williams’ performance, changing his voice from medium to high pitch to low pitch. But what I didn’t realize that I didn’t know he was voicing Genie on Aladdin, and even his voice was unrecognizable as well. I couldn’t see Robin Williams. I knew it was him, but for some reason, he just disappeared into the role. I just loved it. And Dresik Park, like I said before, it’s my favorite, closest theme to science because I love the idea of what would happen if we did bring Mukunui or dinosaurs back to life. It’s not going to look good because we’re going to be on the brink of extinction and they’re going to rise back and take back their whenua, take back their banakitanga and take back their own stuff.
[00:43:22.390] – Tahu
I was like, Oh yeah, that’s good that dinosaurs don’t live anymore, man. But I think my biggest… My number one favorite movie of all time will definitely be Iron Giant. It’s no… Well, to me it’s no debate. It’s no debate. That’s cool you’re telling me that. Yeah, it’s my origin. It’s my origin of why I love films, how I can create robots or create interesting characters with a backstory, like who are these characters and what are their relationships? And learning about all that stuff. I even still love it today. The Iron Giant is still my favorite movie, even up to date. Then after that, I’ve just been inspired by directors as well, like Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings, Edgar Wright’s The Cornetto trilogy. I loved Sean of the Dead, Hotfuzz, and The World’s End. The Cornetto trilogy was one of my favorite movie trilogies of all time. It’s just funny British humor that we just… That even for our Pakeha side when it comes to Scottish, Irish, and English, we just loved all that stuff here. We loved the style and all that. James Gunn as well, such a good director. And of course, we’ve got our own artists that we also look up to, like Timoana Morrison, Renne Owen, there’s so many.
[00:44:55.260] – Tahu
Taka Waititi, of course, Julian Denison, all of those amazing icons, they spread it around the world, not just in Aotearoa, but around the world because they prove that they’re not just typical Māori actors, they’re performers that happen to be Māori.
[00:45:16.940] – Lloyd
Yeah, they should be seen as artists.
[00:45:19.290] – Tahu
Yeah, and seen as the artists. Yeah, and it’s so important. I had Te Karere who talked to me about like, Are you ever going to be famous? Are you ever going to be more popular? Are you ever going to be more popular? Are you ever going to be more popular? Are you ever going to be more famous? Now that your film is really good and blowing up, and I’m like, Oh, I don’t see myself as Cliff Curtis. I don’t see myself as taikawaatiti or Timberwood Morrison because those guys and all the other Māori actors and Pasifika actors, they remain the goats. I’m just starting to come up with my stories and come up with my ideas and all that stuff. One step at a time. One step at a time. Same as developmental delay. It’s just one step at a time. And of course, you need books to understand films because I didn’t even know that Dresset Park was based on a novel. I didn’t know that it was based on a novel and The Iron giants as well. So they got me off guard and I had to read them. And Dresset Park as the novel.
[00:46:25.200] – Tahu
It was dark as hell, man. It was so dark. But then yet again, I’m happy that this film found me so I can figure out what’s behind the film as well, the original type. That’s what I wanted to do with Hikariu, Hetarigah, have this story be based on a true story, but who are the real people behind and what is the actual story that happened?
[00:46:58.260] – Lloyd
How did you pick your actors and the settings and stuff?
[00:47:02.980] – Tahu
I had a few from Auckland as well that came over. But we also talked to actors as well because they also worked in health systems too. Ruben Butler, he’s been working with Anikamua. He said that he was also working with Tamariki, who have been diagnosed with autism as well. We had a nurse as well, an actual nurse that came to play this role and it was so lovely. It’s picking those certain type of actors that have not just theater or not just screen what? Or not just screen acting, but also they have done something else. We’ve chosen those actors that have worked in medical centers into the film because they understand what that Kaupapa was like. I just wanted to cast my sister as my mom. I cast my sister as my mom because she was going on a rant about the art system is not giving us plenty of recognisation of how hard we work. I really want to keep working. I called her up and I was like, You want to be in the film? She was like, Yes, Phil. I’m like, Yeah. I gave her the role as my mom, because of course, it’s whana.
[00:48:36.760] – Tahu
Inia was our little man playing Ben. We had to do all of his POV shots, using his arms, his legs, his breathing as well to make the kid feel real to help and bring him to life. The reason why I called my character Ben, because it was my dad’s name, Benson. So I wanted to name this character after my dad because he’s also has something in his brain. I would talk about it, but it’s hard to… Yeah, that’s okay. No pressure. Yeah, casting and also working with the Māori land crew, it wasn’t just Māori land production, it was also a Ngapakiaka match crew, and also Toi Matarau has also helped did the film as well. We’ve all talked to these, worked with these actors as much as we can. We didn’t have time to do rehearsals or where we’re going to film. It’s just straight. Two days, just film that, film that. Let’s get that rolling. All right, next seat. Then onto the next seat. But also it was lovely working with our extras as well, our Tamariki that have also been on the film. When we premiered it at the film festival this year, the Tamariki got to see themselves on the big screen for the first time, and when they saw it, they were like, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m famous.
[00:50:19.060] – Tahu
I’m famous. It’s the realization, that this is a path that they want to be on. Yeah. It’s just so awesome seeing these kids reaction on themselves saying, ‘I’m famous, Mom.
[00:50:34.710] – Kate
I’m famous. Mom, look.
[00:50:36.170] – Tahu
I’m famous. It’s so fun. Yeah.
[00:50:40.480] – Lloyd
Do you have any people you look up to when the comes to filmmaking?
[00:50:48.280] – Tahu
I look up to definitely Taika Waititi, of course. Edgar Wright, because I just love all of the Zoom and quirks that he has. And I just love looking up to everyone. For actors, I just love looking up to Robin Williams, like I said before. I’m too soon, man.
[00:51:15.320] – Lloyd
What’s your favorite film outside of that?
[00:51:19.070] – Tahu
A film of I Enjoy? Yeah. So far, I actually really love the Spiderverse films. It’s just different styles altogether and just with amazing… Just with amazing rotoscopes and painting and also they give different styles as well to give go. It’s just so amazing to watch and also bringing in the ethnicity of Spiderman. I definitely look up to Stan Lee as well because I remember watching his interview saying that underneath Spiderman, he could be anyone. That’s the idea of his whole body, even his face is covered. Because with people that see Spiderman, they don’t know who he might be. He could be just like what Stanley said, he could be black, he could be red, he could be yellow, he could be… Spiderman just belongs to everyone. And that’s why… And that’s what I wanted for my ideas and my story. It’s for everyone. It’s for everyone who just needs to learn about Takiwatānga.
[00:52:34.470] – Lloyd
And for you, Kate, how was it like supporting Tahu with his film interest?
[00:52:44.570] – Kate
I think there’s a little bit of background there too, and that he was raised amongst the film community, indigenous company, Māori film community here. So we had the pleasure, before she passed, again, way too soon with being with Merata Meta and we’d started a film, Aotearo film festival with Merata Meta, who’s a pioneering filmmaker, a Māori filmmaker, whom Tyca and Cliff, and Ainsley Gairdner, and others… Chelsea was family, they’ve all been mentored by her. And so our job and the kids used to… You might remember being thrown in the vans with Sterling and Harjo, the creative reservation dogs, Sterling, Harjo, Tyca. They would take the kids. They’re meant to be doing a screening, and then they’d disappear and they’d take Tahu and Tua boy off somewhere. And I’m like, What? Yeah. So I was raised amongst filmmakers but as a normal thing. And he has an uncle who’s very, very dear to us from running the water.
[00:53:50.270] – Tahu
We call him Uncle Baloo, because he’s… Yeah. He’s also another inspiration to us.
[00:53:57.100] – Kate
Yes. So it’s his family. And so Bird used to run the indigenous programming at Sundance Film Institute. They all went through there. And so there was, for us, storytelling is everything. And it’s not actually about the film. There are so many different mediums to tell stories, right? Where it can be carving, weaving, poetry, right? So the film, though, was so visual, how he sees the world is so impactful for his life experience, it just seemed very natural that he would go to film. And yes, it’s always very grassrootsy too, we’re very grassroots in the filmmaking. Community, they’re not raised in my filmmakers, but we’re very grassroots, very storytelling-focused, and it makes absolute sense. That is what is with and Libby. It just absolutely makes sense. It’s not as it should be, if that makes sense.
[00:55:01.830] – Lloyd
So how did you find out about Māori Land?
[00:55:04.430] – Tahu
My mom. Oh, okay. Yeah, my mom. She told me about Māori Land. She wanted me to attend it, but I said that I need to graduate first because I just feel pressured to get a degree. You have a.
[00:55:21.750] – Tahu
Degree before? Yeah, I had a degree before, but it didn’t really need to be. I didn’t really need it for here. It was for Bachelor’s Creative Performing Arts. I was at fitiraya when I heard about Māori land and I wanted to… I really wanted to go but for some reason, my instinct told me to finish this off. Then I also wanted to do Tepo Theater. I wanted to give two companies a go. I gave Tepo Theater a go first and then I wanted to try out Māori land. And when I found out that Māori land does indigenous films too, bringing in different films from around the world, I’m like, yeah, take me. I need to get back to this man. I love it, yeah. Because indigenous films have always been part of it. But we were so overshadowed by mainstream movies just like The Iron giant, just like Dresset Park. There weren’t really much Māori films that we wanted to look up to. Well, besides Wants were Warriors, but Wants for Warriors were different because we were Tamariki, they didn’t really need just needed to wait until we’re older and then learn about it. But there was no specific Māori movie that was for all the age group.
[00:56:43.510] – Tahu
Because we were just so busy into the serious ideas, the serious impact that Māori have, and that’s what we need to focus on. But there were not much fun, Māori animations. Well, not like today. We’ve got some really good Tamariki. We’ve got some really good Tamariki films that are being developed and animations that are on TV and there too. It’s so amazing to watch. And also Disney by bringing Te Reu onto Disney movies. But all of those wouldn’t have happened if growing up with the right indigenous storytellers. That’s why me and my sister look up to Bird Runnymore. He always set out. I remember he always gave us a lesson saying that if you want to be a filmmaker or want to do something that is not really Māori or indigenous-based, at least keep your culture together. Remember where you come from if you’re going to hold on to a passion that you really love. And that was really important. It sticked to our heads for a long time and we really wanted to be filmmakers. But we don’t want to work at Hollywood. That’s the thing. We didn’t want to work at Hollywood. We wanted to do something like create stories for Māori, create stories for indigenous people.
[00:58:18.480] – Tahu
It’s so important. I’m happy that Uncle Bert has raised us that way because the first time I can’t remember, but the first time he met me was only two weeks old. And probably that’s probably the origin of why I love films, probably because of him. He held me. He raisedtalk we and yeah. Because it’s always going to be important. We’re always going to have our own superhero origins of where our passion comes from and where we start. Because yeah. And that’s why I… That’s why I’m thankful to have these artists with us in our lives. Since we have artists that we have in our lives, it’s cool to make friends with younger artists as well. Here in Māori land, whether they’re animators or concept artists, storytellers. Yeah, it’s the same thing. Because we share an interest and we share a passion. And even if those passions and interests can be different, but it is still the same category and the passion that we are in.
[00:59:36.230] – Lloyd
I love the way you explain it for Māori land. We don’t want to go to the Hollywood thing because… We don’t want to go toIt’s like you’re going to dilute the… I’m trying to find out the tradition or culture, something like that.
[00:59:51.090] – Tahu
Golden Gloves, the Academy of World winners. It’s not our style because Libby, she told me this, and I told her, There’s been so many big artists that are coming out of Aotearoa lately. Why is that? She said, Well, there’s a good path and there’s a path that you need to be careful. The good path is that you want to tell stories to our community, to our indigenous whanos, to our Pacifica, and everyone. But you have to be careful on a certain path that could be a roundabout. That roundabout is ego. The reason why she told me that ego is so big is because we lose ourselves. Because we’re used to being recognized and we used to be having all this attention and having all of this amazing fame that we have. And that’s what Libby told me about. And that’s also the reason why I didn’t go to LA for my film festival because I just feel like that I’ll lose my ego there because it’s such an egotistic place. People love themselves. They love the attention. And that’s what was important as an artist is that you have to remind yourself that you’re a storyteller, not telling a story and be famous and get the Tesla’s and all that.
[01:01:29.390] – Tahu
It’s really important when it comes to the dangers, especially with Takiwatānga. I’m happy that I have Takiwatānga with me because I’ve been raised with my mom being careful or who to trust around people. I remember all of that stuff. I did ditch some stuff that my friends were doing that they’re not supposed to be doing. Then they did call me a bit of a pifta, but hey, I’m at least I’m not going to go to jail in the future. I want to be me. I think that’s just what medical centers are also forgetting is that the kids want to be kids. You can’t just give a note to say what they need or what you have to wait for. The same as with filmmaking, but we want a story about the Night Saving the Princess. We’ve seen that a couple of times. We don’t need to see that again. We don’t need to see another Forrest Gump. We don’t need to see another Rain Man. Sure, those movies were brilliant and they still are, but it’s time to change the game.
[01:02:44.640] – Lloyd
See it from another perspective.
[01:02:46.620] – Tahu
Yeah, because hell, I don’t like changes. My spectrum doesn’t like changes at all. I don’t like changes. I don’t like when things change around or if my room changes around or if we’re supposed to go to the movie theaters and they’re nuts. I’m like, Oh God, I hate it. I blame the parents for that definitely. But hey, when you get to a certain age, yeah, change is going to have to happen.
[01:03:11.640] – Lloyd
So how was it, Kate, for Tahu growing up, given he doesn’t like changes, but you travel a lot as a family. So how are you handling that?
[01:03:23.970] – Kate
So it was to the point where we used to have video stores. It used to be video stores, and we had this every Tuesday because we had to have a schedule, right? We’d go and get our videos for the week. We’d go and get DVDs, and you get them Tuesday, 6:00 to six dollars. So we’d go to the store. And then it shifted. They planned to shift to the other side of the mall, about 300 meters away it shifted. So Tahu was about seven. We got there and he was going… In his mind and had walked across and plump to the south somewhere it wasn’t supposed to be. And it took a real long time to get him to walk through the doors of the new venue, because it had changed. If I took a certain route to school, all hell would break loose. So it was just having to deal with that. So what it was, I think I mentioned earlier that we had said to Tau, even though he’s a little fall-out, he said, You’re going to have to meet us halfway. And especially when we go on to Marai, for Whari, the meeting of the people is very important.
[01:04:40.980] – Kate
It’s a ceremony. But it was absolutely overwhelming for someone with a Takiwatānga. So I’d always have to go to the back. I’d miss all the kaira because I had this kid at the back trying to calm them down. So I missed a lot. And then I realized, if I just go over them and we sit calmly in the back, and then I would always prepare his own food. And when I went off, we’d go back to the car park and eat that food together and chat about it. So it’s not compromise either. It’s just finding another way. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. It’s nothing compromise. People say, all right, you’ve got to make compromises. No. If you have to compromise and you’re not doing it the right way, do it a different way and take one another along. So at all times, Tau had to meet us, too. And as it turned out, of course, he’s been in the Kapaaka groups. He’s around people all the time. And one of the things that really, really helped us with being raised by a lot of whana from Indian country who are Native American Indians, it was just natural to travel to them.
[01:05:54.360] – Kate
So airports are familiar. So that was all natural. That was never really an issue, Aitau who was going, because they were whana, and Khorana, and Auntie Laura, Mom, and Bird, that was normal. And they’d get all mad if we didn’t get on a plung. Do you have any idea? They had no idea that you couldn’t just drive up the road. That was more the issue. I think the biggest thing that, especially in his teenage years, the biggest discovery was the noise canceling. Yeah, yeah.
[01:06:23.180] – Lloyd
I’m very happy.
[01:06:23.640] – Kate
About it. Yeah, it’s very helpful. It’s a tough time for him. And it’s a long time too, right? Yeah.
[01:06:27.890] – Tahu
I remember being really overwhelmed by so much things, especially as a teenager. I just did not know what to do. I know what I wanted to do, but there was not much… There was not much education around films back then, or the arts industry. There was literally no options for arts and Māori land wasn’t an option back then. I didn’t even know this place existed until I entered fitire. I thought to myself, man, I really wanted to do films, but I have to keep going, just focus on the indigenous side of this, and then you can get to where you want to go. The noise-cancelling headphones really helped me because it helped me to think and it helped me to pace myself as I grow older as well. I always say to everyone like, is it okay if I have this on with me? I ain’t going to be rude. I ain’t going to watch YouTube or anything. I just want to have this with me if I need a downtime. Right, okay. That’s great.
[01:07:53.440] – Lloyd
What advice can you give to those children or children, kids, those who are growing up who would like to take filmmaking or any other interests like what you have? It could be something an art, painting.
[01:08:11.460] – Tahu
I think challenge the change if you can. Challenge the changes even if it’s scary or even if it’s something that you don’t want to do but you really want to really get there, but this is the only option to do it. I just say take one step at a time. It’s not… Just take a step at a time. It doesn’t need to take like… Don’t need to take two steps or you don’t need to go overboard, like reaching to the fourth step. Just take your time. Because we still got a young life. Your life is still young and the world is going to keep turning and turning every day and you’ve got a lot to learn. You’re stillyou’re still new to this world. We’re not in our 30s or 40s or 50s yet, but this is a good start to really carry on. I think a message for parents is just patience. It’s definitely patience because not all medical centers are perfect and not all medical doctors are bad. There are probably good ones, but they’re just not being recommended at the moment. For the parents, just patience. You don’t need to see your child as a child with a disease or an interesting personality.
[01:09:57.690] – Tahu
Just see that child say that, Oh, he probably has superpowers. Because that’s what I love to do. I always say to my little cousin, when he was diagnosed, told me what is autism or what is ADHD, and I said it’s a superpower. Yeah, and that’s what you have. Yeah, I like that. Yeah. Just those little things to help with parents and full of the tamaraki, changes are scary but it is the only way to deal with it. Yeah, to deal with it. One step at a time. Thank you.
[01:10:33.600] – Lloyd
And for you, Kate, what advice can you give to parents, especially the daily living skills area? This is very important for parents because for me personally, that’s my worry. Okay, what will happen to them in the future? For you, what advice can you perhaps send out to people? I think.
[01:10:52.790] – Kate
Going from what Tahu said, Tahuarua said, it’s a little bit more patience and for every new experience or new opportunity that has been presented to your child, we used to practice getting there. So when we moved to a new town and there was another school, we would practice going to the school up to the gate and then came home again. Do you remember that? What are we, just went through? We didn’t go into the school and then we came home again and we got used to that. And so we would repeat things. We would just start off and go, this is going to be the drive. This is drive we take to here. And then we’d stop, and then we come home again. And we even got to a point where we said, Taworo, would you like to walk home from school? And so we practiced that’s a… And then we asked him to walk home, or if there was all these people around the community waiting, and then he didn’t turn up, we’re like, Oh, what happened? We found him. Because the pathway had run out, because it had stopped, he just sat there.
[01:11:59.010] – Kate
We found him on. But you make mistakes and you have your moments. I think for families, it is about being patient and one task at a Time.
[01:12:13.320] – Kate
One idea at a time. So as a mother over-functioning, you’re busy trying to get out the door. You’re usually just scrookie. Put your shoes on, get in the car. What are you doing? Why is the bed not made? And you say that in one big breath.
[01:12:29.570] – Kate
We did that with Tahu. He would get on all fours and start just on all fours galloping around the house. But if I say to him, put your shoes on, he puts them on. Now get your bag. He’s like little soldiers and he’s just amazing. And out of all our kids, of which we raised four teenagers under the house, he was always ready for school. He was always on time. He was ready to go at 5:00 in the morning to catch a buzz and said, he was the one absolutely prepared, whereas my other were just getting them out the door, getting them out of bed. It’s just such an issue. Tawarua was an absolute joy in his teenage years. Absolute joy. As long as he knew his schedule, so everything highly scheduled. The other thing that’s really wonderful if you got little ones, as having the calendars with the photos of them doing what you need them to do at certain times, because we are so very all through our childhood and our teenage years. So having the photos and brushing his teeth, and moving on to the brush. And those actually worked. We didn’t really bother with the ward systems.
[01:13:43.240] – Kate
That means nothing. It’s too far ahead and it’s abstract. Just do it. Here are your tasks, and they’ll do it. That’s what I discovered. That was our own experience. So teenage years were not an issue. That’s can’t get out of bed. He’s always been super motivated, like I say. But it depends on the kid. Tahuaroa’s spirit and determination, it counteracts some of the other challenges he may have, which we’re grateful for. So some of the other things, what else is there? So there is the patience, but it’s doing practicing the routes. One task at a time. We just as a farm, we put ourselves at the center of his life. So although we really were grateful to the school’s advice, medical advice, we ensured we were the ones that held the folder. We’re the ones that everything came to. We even had the people in Wellington say I wasn’t to receive their reports. I said, oh, hell, no, you are going down. I’m going to say I am the center of this world. You will see that being very, very firm. Because you are as parents, you know your children best. So don’t hand that manna over to somebody else.
[01:15:08.550] – Kate
Have them support you, provide you with the tools, take the advice if it suits you, if it’s useful to you. If it’s not, let it go. You are the center of your child’s life. And really, for them, you’re all they need. So you’re all they need. And if you remember that, you’re good to go. Yeah, okay. On a Tuesday. Wednesday could all turn to custer. Who knows?
[01:15:44.460] – Lloyd
Right. What is autism in the eyes of Kate?
[01:15:50.820] – Kate
It’s another way of experiencing this world and the journey we’re on of life. It’s another way of experiencing it. To have somebody in your life that experiences it is really awesome to hear from their perspective when you’re able to communicate what that looks like, the colors of the world, the shape of the world. And for me and as a whana, it has… And actually for a lot of the teachers that Pahua Roa has engaged with, provided us with life lessons. There’s a beauty and the honesty that comes with Takiwatānga. And at no time would I ever say that we’ve compromised anything, that we’ve lost anything, that it’s a disability. It’s just simply another way of appreciating the gift of life. That’s just for us. Takiwatānga, it’s all in that word. Yes. In that word. And so… Yeah. I mean, you worry, but you worry about all your kids. I’ve got another daughter that’s a full-time actor. I’m not worried about her. I’m just worried about… We’ve all got stuff to worry about.
[01:17:15.760] – Kate
Yeah. I believe that autism can equalize in space.
[01:17:21.880] – Lloyd
What’s autism? The days of the world?
[01:17:23.800] – Tahu
It can be colorful. It could be dark as well. But yeah, it’s depending on how my emotions you have or what your emotions have, I guess. I guess with autism, or how I really see autism is just that it’s always going to be a gift. It’s always going to be a gift to what you have. And I’m not just talking about autism. I’m talking about all the other spectrums that kids have. Teretz, Down syndrome, home, ADHD, all of that. It’s superpower. It’s their superpower. They can use it how they want to use it, but definitely, definitely use it for responsibilities as well. I think all I could say is that taki wa tanga is always going to be in his or her own space.
[01:18:27.870] – Lloyd
Do you have any final message?
[01:18:29.460] – Kate
Thank you for taking the time.
[01:18:34.390] – Lloyd
Thank you. I really appreciate your time and the wisdom from you, Kate. I really appreciate that.
[01:18:41.420] – Tahu
Yeah, thank you. Do you fist bump? Yeah, man.