Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Interview: "KOWI" with Mary-Jo Tohill

As part of the upcoming Korean Short Film Night 2012 event organised by the programming team behind KOFFIA, we took this opportunity to speak with Mary-Jo Tohill, director of short documentary KOWI. The New Zealand produced film will be screened at this very special occasion on September 29th to celebrate the New Zealand and Korea Year of Friendship this 2012.

To book your free seat at the Korean Short Film Night, click through to Cinema On The Park's website.

KOWI is a documentary that follows the story of a Korean family who, after immigrating to New Zealand, put aside their struggles in a new land to help and cook for the homeless every Sunday.

Read on for a short interview with director Mary-Jo Tohill and her film KOWI

How did you get into the film industry?
I started off as a print Journalist in New Zealand when I left school in 1983, but while I was overseas from 1989 to 1991, I decided to transfer my writing, research and visual skills into the Film and Television industry. On my return from Europe, I did a one year course at broadcasting school at Christchurch Polytechnic in New Zealand. I was then interned for six months at Television New Zealand, where I stayed on as a full-time director for about three years, and went free-lance after that, working on a range of TV genres from children’s programmes to lifestyle shows, and eventually documentaries. I’ve worked in both NZ and Australia, the UK, USA, South America and Antarctica.

What or who inspires you as a filmmaker?
I am inspired by people’s stories and how I can tell them, with images and sounds.

Tell us more about why you wanted to make KOWI.
Producer Veronica McCarthy had read about Daniel (Shinkee) Chung and how he had seen a need to help some of Christchurch’s most vulnerable people by giving them a Sunday meal in one of the city’s main parks, Latimer Square, a popular gathering place not just for local people but for the homeless. At the time, Veronica was gathering ideas for a documentary series called NZ Stories. I was asked to write a story outline for the broadcaster Television New Zealand, about Daniel and his family including wife, Hyun-Sook, and children David (Seong-Gook), Samuel (Seong-Gwang), Joseph (Joo-Hun) and Esther (Joo-Hee). To our delight, the proposal was accepted.

Then began the challenge of how to tell a story about this amazingly generous, hectically busy family, not just in words, but in pictures. We decided to start and finish with the family preparing Sunday lunch for around 50 homeless people, and illustrate why they do it with snippets from their every day life. We set out to answer questions about why an immigrant family, who are struggling financially themselves in the Christchurch earthquake aftermath, would help a group of people that society prefers to ignore and forget; the homeless. Faith is a huge motivator in what the Chung family does, but belief in helping their community is just as strong.

Are you excited to have an Australian Premiere at the Korean Short Film Night? How do you think the Australian audience will respond to the film?
Both Veronica & I were so thrilled to hear that the film had been selected! I think the Chung’s story will resonate in Australia and anywhere in the world, where there are “invisible” people in our society, helped by those who are humanitarian enough to care, transcending cultural and even language barriers.  

What's next for you?
Veronica and I are currently working on a documentary series which explores the Christchurch earthquakes aftermath, scientifically, socially, culturally, economically and physically, which is to screen on Prime in New Zealand in 2013.

Follow Paua Productions via their website www.pauaproductions.co.nz

Follow us:

No comments:

Post a Comment