The supernatural beliefs and customs of Maori, Pasifika and Asian cultures are the inspiration for the new six-part series which begins tonight on TVNZ 2.
Horror has a long and chilling history on our television screens. Shows like The Twilight Zone, The X Files, and Goosebumps have all managed to scare us in the dark, send shivers down our spines, or both. TVNZ’s new anthology series Beyond The Veil does just that – but with a unique Aotearoa twist, highlighting the diverse voices of the Maori, Pasifika and Asian peoples as well as the supernatural beings and beliefs that are part of their cultures. .
The idea for the series came from a screen a few years ago focused on the need to establish more avenues for tangata whenua and other ethnic groups to access prime time television, says Nevak. Rogers, managing director of local content at TVNZ.
“Being of both Maori and Tongan ancestry, I know we have a multitude of histories and I’m aware that other ethnicities have similar but different histories that deserve to be celebrated,” Rogers says. “The goal is for these storytellers to be able to use this platform to move on to bigger projects.” Three of the series’ stories, Tim Worrall’s Tappy, Taratoa Stappard’s Taumanu, and Michael Bennett’s Te Kohu – The Mist, are already scheduled to be expanded into feature films, in hopes that they can make the leap to an international scene.
The second episode of Beyond the Veil, 26:29, is a Pasifika story directed by Danny Aumua and produced by Wilhelm Voigt and Ngaire Fuata. In it, a group of young vloggers break into an abandoned Samoan church; their found footage tells the story of what happens next. Aumua says he was inspired by YouTube channel Buzzfeed Unsolved, which features American vloggers exploring supposedly haunted places with humor and respect for each location’s history. “I wanted a New Zealand version of this channel,” says Aumua, who says the fresh and largely unknown cast of young actors helped add a layer of realism to the found footage genre.
Aumua, who is Sāmoan, says it was a challenge to create an exciting and chilling story that remains respectful of her culture. “I grew up hearing the stories of my elders, but writing and directing was a different experience. For some, the topics are taboo and the last thing we wanted to do was offend our community,” he says Another problem was the use of Samoan spirits, which tend to belong to the islands, and only to the islands. “We didn’t use traditional spirits because they are tied to villages and real families, therefore in consultation with our producer Wil [Voight]who is also like our Samoan advisor, we created our own spiritual persona.
Many aspects of Samoan culture are incorporated into 26:29. The most obvious is the setting: Samoa is a Christian nation, so it’s no coincidence that the haunted building in this episode is a church. For non-Samoan viewers, however, the significance of the date the vloggers disappeared — October 11, 2019, according to a caption on the opening scene — may be less obvious.
In Samoa, the second Sunday in October is White Sunday, a religious holiday that celebrates the role of children in the church. Families wear their best white clothes and young church members lead the service with Bible recitations, skits and songs. The character Mel (Fay Tofilau), who shows the vloggers around her abandoned church, references White Sunday – in one scene she looks up at the church and, in an eerie tone of voice, says “kids sing”, yet there are no children in sight. Near the end of the episode, a young Samoan girl appears inside the church wearing a white dress – another reference to White Sunday.
The title of the episode refers to Leviticus 26:29, the biblical passage that says, “You shall eat the flesh of your sons and you shall eat the flesh of your daughters.” Another religious reference comes when Mel sits in front of a mirror covered in white lace fabric. She is motionless, looking pale, frightened by what is in front of her. This scene refers to a custom in Samoa. When the sun goes down, many Sāmoans cover their mirrors, believing that the devil is looking into the souls of those who look in the mirror at night. at 26:29, Neil (Max Grean) removes the fabric, revealing a cracked mirror underneath. Mel starts crying saying “this place is cursed”.
To ensure that the story does not disrespect Sāmoan culture, Aumua and his team not only conducted their own research, consulting with people such as Voigt who is deep into his Fa’a Sāmoa, but they also also approached two church ministers from different denominations for advice. Aumua was worried about what they thought of his idea, so he was relieved when one of the ministers not only gave his approval but also suggested the names of children from the church who might be interested in participating. to production. “There were a lot of enthusiastic kids who wanted to be on the show, so the same day we held auditions and that’s how we found Zoe-Monet Vainikolo who plays our young Samoan girl, and she ended up being an integral part of the story,” Aumua says.
Beyond the Veil begins March 7 on TVNZ 2 at 9:30 p.m., with new stories weekly thereafter. Episode two, 26:29, screens March 14. All episodes will also be available to watch on TVNZ on demand.
This is public interest journalism funded by NZ On Air.