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Scoop IV: Trouble Is My Business' Juliette Veber

Scoop Interview: With Trouble is My Business Director Juliette Veber

40th Auckland International Film Festival director interview

By Natasha Burling

Years insulated in the film industry led director Juliette Veber to seek a slice of real life. Where better to find that than in an economically-deprived high school in south Auckland?

Questions about New Zealand life from a New York-based Chinese garment worker made Veber realise how little time she had spent outside the film industry and propelled her back to her home country.

“I needed to make something that was really connected to me,” says Veber.

The British-born director examines a subject that is important to her and has been hotly debated in past years: education.

While making the documentary, Veber worked as an arts coordinator at Papatoetoe’s Aorere College and says of her students and documentary subjects: “I had no concept of what it was like for them.”

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Veber, who grew up in Auckland, had spent little time in the south of the city and suspects that is true of many Aucklanders.

The often overlooked south Auckland also features in Apron Strings, which opened the festival last night.

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Four years in the making, the documentary centres around the south Auckland college’s assistant principal Mr Peach, who Veber shadowed for six months.

She recalls the first time she saw Mr Peach calling the students to class with a megaphone: “I thought: ‘Wow, who is this guy?’”, she says.

Mr Peach was in charge of discipline and truancy at Aorere College and had already been at the college for four years when Veber started at the school.

Veber, who single-handedly directed and shot the film, was surprised the students had no objections to Mr Peach’s novel methods and actually quite liked the traditional discipline he meted out.

It is evident Veber has a lot of respect for Mr Peach, who she describes as a “fascinating character” and “an incredible inspiration”.

She says he transformed Aorere College: “For that school at that time he really turned it around. It was quite unsafe. He did make a massive difference to that school,” she enthuses.

Veber has high praise for the assistant principal: “I think Mr Peach is one of a kind. He’s such a unique and special person.”

The reason Mr Peach’s discipline worked was because he is from south Auckland himself and could relate to the students: “I think he really understood what they needed and who they were. He really cared about them and showed that,” she says.

Veber wants the film to illustrate the barriers to education some students face: “I hope middle class people may have a little more understanding of the complex issues that even prevent them from getting to school.”

However, she says the documentary has the unexpected effect of mirroring the lives of those often ignored by society. An aunty of one of the documentary’s subjects said: “You made a film about the reality of our lives.”

Trouble is My Business screens Tuesday July 15 at 11.00am.


Natasha Burling is an AUT journalism student doing the Graduate Diploma in Journalism. She has lived in Colombia, France and Scotland.


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