Behaviours Of The Backpacker documentary airs on TV1
Walking the 500km from Auckland to Cape Reinga is no walk in the park, but Chinese/Hungarian-American filmmaker Sándor
Lau not only did it, but carried a videocamera with him. The resulting documentary airs this December.
BEHAVIOURS OF THE BACKPACKER screens in two parts, Dec. 7 & 14 on Asia Down Under, 8:30am, TV1. The show’s producer, Kim Webby says, “Sándor has been a reporter on the programme
for the past year and has a unique style and voice. His documentary is a rare treat, both insightful and thoughtful with
a streak of black comedy as long as the road he walked. We are thrilled to be able to bring it to a television audience
for the first time.”
The story of the film focuses on the people Lau meets on his journey, mainly other backpackers, hostel owners, and Maori
communities. The director says, “War-torn countries produce refugees, impoverished countries produce emigrants, and
decadent countries produce backpackers. In the film I’ve got Israeli backpackers running away from the bloodshed in
their land of milk and honey; organic farmers fleeing the land of viral marketing, multi-tasking and retail therapy; and
the Maori community of Ngawha, who have a prison being built on their sacred land against their will. What they all have
in common with each other and with me is that they’re in some sort of exile in search of a home they’ve lost.” The story
ends with the Maori whakatauki which says you spend your life walking backwards because you see only where you’ve been,
not where you’re going.
The road to getting the documentary on air was even longer, and at times more difficult than the road from Auckland to
the Cape. Lau, a former US Fulbright scholar, completed the hour-long film with a shoestring budget granted by the
Screen Innovation Production Fund (a partnership between Creative New Zealand and the New Zealand Film Commission) and
Fulbright New Zealand. Chloë Laing, of the Screen Innovation Production Fund says, “It’s extremely difficult to secure
screentime for independent documentaries on a television network, particularly for productions which are less commercial
in their style and content.”
BEHAVIOURS OF THE BACKPACKER was shot entirely on digital video, using a small portable camera, with the director doing
all his walking and shooting alone. Lau claims, “The way you do your shooting actually changes the content of what you
can create. There’s a certain intimacy you can get when you’re alone using a camera that looks like it came from the
Warewhare. You can tell a lot of stories that can’t be purchased for any budget.” He also says the respect earned by
walking gained the trust of many subjects who might not have opened up under other circumstances.
The film’s subjects come from Scotland, Australia, Israel, Japan, USA, Holland, France, and Pakeha and Maori New
Zealanders, and the film itself takes place in Auckland, Waipu Cove, Whangarei, Paihia, Waitangi, Moerewa, Ngawha,
Kohukohu, Kaitaia and Cape Reinga. Music by Ralph Bennett, Matthew Brennan, Rerewa Kingi, Karl Paraha, Thomas Attwood,
and Sándor Lau.