“Give data a human experience”

Statistics are not all you need to look at when analysing why there is an increasing number of children abuse incidents, says New Zealand-based film director, Paula Whetu Jones. 

In fact, it is putting a human experience on collected data to thoroughly understand how and why, there is an increasing occurrence of such acts, said the Maori film director. 

Paula has been a filmmaker for 20 years, shooting social issues documentary, and most are centered on Maori and Pacific Island children in New Zealand.

“The problem is people just look at the statistics and then they make their judgments based on the statistics, but nobody will look past the statistics, they are not interested, and it serves people’s prejudices, and that is basically what we are trying to break through,” Paula said.

“It’s putting a human face and human experiences on the statistics. I don’t do statistics. I refuse to because basically that’s what all people will look at, and not how the statistics came out.

“The first documentary I made was women in gangs’ and it basically talked about their experiences, and a lot of the times, majority of the young women are abused or trying to get away from abuse, same with the street kids. They talk candidly about their abuse, whether from their family, from people they don’t know, from their peers, whoever.”

Paula told the Samoa Observer that filmmakers just like journalists; need to ensure that they tell the truth and the truth is what prevails.

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“If you don’t understand the issues, and when you don’t understand the context of questions and answers, then you are going to get it wrong. 

“Especially with documentaries, it is important that what you are putting out to the world is right and truthful, and you know how we can manipulate things for people to believe, but these sorts of social issue stuff, unless you know what’s being said to you, unless you know the right questions to ask, you are going to get it wrong, and you are going to put it out there in the wrong way.

“A lot of the time, it’s about not perpetuating the stereotypes, so it’s just a broader understanding of the documentary or the film you’re making. You need to look at everything about that person, not just the end result. 

“You need to know how they came to be where they are, and a lot of people don’t do that. It’s about weaving things together in a way that will make people aware that there are things that contribute to what happens at the end.”

Paula said when it comes to talking about personal experiences of such acts, it is important to know how protected and safe you are. 

“It’s the problem in New Zealand as well. Who do you tell? You have to find someone that you trust, and that it is going to be treated. A lot of the times it’s not. Who, where and what is going to happen next,” she said. 

“I know in New Zealand, for rape, the prosecution rate is really low, so that stops people from reporting rape.” 

Minimising and even solving the issue, Paula said, lies with the women, mothers, and men who do not contribute to social issues. 

“Literally when people remain quiet, they are giving the green light for people to keep abusing the children,” she said. 

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