Oscar Kightley’s nostalgic look at 80s NZ

An adolescence spent playing spacies inspired the directorial debut of a famous New Zealand face.

Oscar Kightley’s first short film Tom’s Dairy is one of six finalists in the New Zealand International Film Festival beginning on Thursday.

The 13-minute film is set in 1980s West Auckland and follows a day in the life of teenager Johnny – the day reggae royalty Bob Marley dies.

Kightley remembers the day well.

“I was 11 years old at the time and at Te Atatu Intermediate. I remember walking up to my two mates and one was crying really hard out. My mate said ‘Bob Marley’s died’.”

“I was absolutely bereft. It was a big moment.”

Despite the main character living in Te Atatu, loving Bob Marley and sharing a Samoan heritage the film wasn’t intended to be biographical, Kightley says.

The storyline delves into domestic violence, drug use, poverty, family life and teenage love.

But rather than deliver a definitive message on any of the topics Kightley wanted to take a nostalgic look at life in the 80s.

Life in “Tat North” as Kightley calls it, included Mark II Zephyrs, dairies, milk bottle deliveries and Space Invaders, he says.

“It’s an insight into how life was before the internet. If you wanted to play a game you had to go to the arcade. It was like the marae back then because we all gathered around Space Invaders.

“There will be certain things that most people could relate to like the milk truck and the fact that the dairy was the centre of the universe.”

The film was shot at a dairy Kightley used to frequent as a child after moving to Te Atatu from Samoa when he was aged 4.

Known for his work on Sione’s Wedding and Bro Town Kightley always planned to put his experience to use as a director.

Since the completion of the short film in January Kightley went on to direct two episodes of the second series of Super City, airing on TV3 on July 26.

Tom’s Dairy gave him the confidence to pursue other directorial projects, he says.

“It was cool I had that experience because I could jump into that and not be too terrified.”

The winning finalist will be selected on the final day of the festival.

Visit nziif.co.nz for session times or to book.

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