Trouble is my Business

We had a friend come to stay and he popped this doco into our CD player and encouraged us to watch it. Now I am a total novice to non-Discovery Channel and non BBC or CNN doco’s. So the quality and style of this doco took  me quite by surprise and left me thinking about it for days afterwards.

What I loved most about this doco was the camera work. Juliette Veber did an excellent job. Right through the movie I was continuously thinking that this camera should not be here. I do not know if it was for artistic reasons or just the HD-cam approach, but from time to time I noticed that perhaps the top of someone’s head was not entirely in the frame or something similar. When this happened it served to remind me that this is someone else’s personal story and that really it is none of my business. But this is exactly the point, we need to make this our business, we need to understand, embrace and celebrate the diversity of our Kiwi cultures.

Trouble is my Business follows the journey of a south Auckland school, focusing primarily on its Tongan, Samoan and Maori students. The journey is portrayed through the employment of their deputy head, a rather unique and unorthodox character called Mr Peach. The school has trouble with wagging (truancy), it is Mr Peach’s job to deal with this and the many other problems which arise in his multi-ethnic high school which is blessed with a large number of poorer immigrants.

It appears that Juliette Veber quietly over the period of a year was able to capture one hang of a lot of the school’s fabric on film. Juliette and co-producer Vicky Pope somehow managed to turn this into a remarkable ‘fly on the wall’ collage of the lives of struggling children. Watching Mr Peach at work was inspiring, but what spoke most to me was the complicated cross-cultural struggles of the adolescent children.

What spoke to me most was following the lives of Jesse, who eventually was forced to find an alternative education, and Mosese. The common thread that I saw with most of the boys in this movie was that they had no idea how to positively express their emotions. Often they had abusive fathers who taught them that violence is acceptable. Especially with Jesse, Juliette and Vicky gifted us with insight to his struggle, knowing that violence was not the answer, but not knowing another way. Usually his answer was his default drive of smashing someone. Jesse is probably deemed by society as a bad kid. But the more I watched him the more I understood that these kids are good kids. And perhaps under different parenting, in a different environment their lives would be very different.

I also respected Mosese and his loyalty to his family and friends. It was beautiful to watch his relationship with Mr Peach change from one of fear and mistrust to mutual respect. Mr Peach’s gift was more than just knowing Pacific Island culture, it was his ability to value individual teenagers for who they were. His love for them covered a multitude of their sins and enabled him to find and encourage to the surface their positive attributes. This is something we can all learn from.

Finally, I think where Juliette and Vicky succeed most in this film was that they managed to share the journey in such a way that we the viewers are not forced to take sides. I was left with compassion, respect and admiration for both the teachers and the kids. Remember that I am quite ignorant to this genre of film. But I really enjoyed that the story told itself and allowed me to interact emotionally with the movie to a level that I could cope with. Well done Juliette and Vicky.

This movie is a must watch for any Kiwi or anyone who either works cross-culturally or with children. It was a beautiful emotion-scape of cinematography.

To find out more about the movie check out its website . It will not be on television and will be showing in Dunedin, August 3, 3:30pm and August 5, 11:45am at the Rialto. GO SEE IT.

Cheers Kel
P.S. this review was written with the aid of an expresso coffee and Ben Throp’s wonderful Kiwi music.


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