Jade Jackson

Jade turned to film-making after taking time out to rediscover herself and embrace her Samoan heritage

Sharing her experiences of diversity, innovation and sustainability in Wellington’s film industry, Jade was one of six local filmmakers interviewed for Diverse Voices: Making Screen Work Different.

The Wellington UNESCO City of Film project is directed and produced by Pachali Brewster, with help from facilitators and Victoria University of Wellington’s Missy Molloy and Raqi Syed.

Material for the documentary has come from a hui featuring six local storytelling talent, including Jade, around the central question "how can we make screen work different".

Jade spent much of her 20s struggling with an identity crisis.

“When I was growing up being Samoan wasn’t really something to be proud of, what I saw really scarred me as a kid around racism… so I hid that part of myself for a long time.”

Originally from Porirua’s Cannons Creek and now living in Nelson, Jade ended up leaving her family, a partner, friends and a career to sit on a beach and go through a dark night of the soul in Australia for a year.

“I had those tough conversations with myself, letting go of my past and rediscovering myself, spiritually first then my Samoan heritage.”

It was then she began writing and realised she wanted to be a film-maker, to tell stories, to inspire people with her story or stories like hers.

“I really wanted to immerse myself in my culture and take my power back.”

And she’s doing that successfully - after graduating from the New Zealand Film School she got her start her start as a script supervisor on Jessica “Coco Solid” Hansel’s debut short film No laughing in the Faculty with Piki Films.

That helped to inspire and help run her own film sets that featured ritual, culture and genuine connection through Red Rock Films, which she founded with partner and collaborator Christopher Hines.

With a focus on bringing the Pasifika and Deaf experience to film with dignity, the likes of her short film Raids, a drama showcasing the treatment of Pasifika people in the Dawn Raids of the 70s in Aotearoa, was officially selected for the Melbourne Women In Film Festival, Wairoa Film Festival and Māoriland Film festival.

Shortly after Jade was awarded script development funding and named a Sundance Institute Indigenous Film Fund Fellow, off the back of being shortlisted for the Sundance Merata Mita Fellowship Award with her script Losa, the first feature film she’ll direct.

Jade also took out the Ngā Kōrero Tutu Iho Oral History Award to give voice to Falema’i Lesā, a Samoan national resident who famously appealed her visa overstay conviction in 1982 and won.

The recording will be in Lesā’s native tongue of Sāmoan, to be archived in Pataka Art Museum & Library, near Jade’s hometown in Porirua.