dawn raid


director: oscar kightley



REVIEWER: lyall carter

The rise, fall and spiritual rebirth of the most iconic and influential music label in Pacific history, Dawn Raid Entertainment.

Even though last year saw a real change in the cinema scene due to releases being pulled because of the pandemic, the brightest light to shine was the New Zealand film industry. 2020 was a stellar year for Kiwi made films and if Dawn Raid is anything to go by 2021 is going to be another one. 


Dawn Raid is as Kiwi a film as you could possibly get. Filled with powerful, creative characters who use their ingenuity and a lot of heart and courage to shine on the world stage, Dawn Raid is a must see film that every New Zealander should see. 


Dawn Raid is the story of two Manukau Polytechnic students, Andy Murane and Tanielu Leaosavai'i (aka Brotha D) who turned a bootleg t-shirt business and Hip-Hop night at a local bar in Otara into the influential Dawn Raid Entertainment empire. From humble beginnings to fame and fortune, Andy, Brotha D and the Dawn Raid artists gave voice to a disenfranchised Pacific community, for which the violence of the dawn raids, twenty years previously, was still raw. But the bravado and contempt for the status quo that drove Andy and Brotha D to the top, was also the unravelling of their empire. Unpaid tax debts, rifts between artists, and a feeling of betrayal and failure underpinned the downfall of Dawn Raid Entertainment, though not before they had created an immeasurable musical legacy that would pave the way for future New Zealand artists to reach international audiences. 


I like hip hop and rap but it's not my go to kinda music. Some people may look at Dawn Raid and think because of its particular musical subject it's not the kinda movie for them either. They couldn’t be more wrong. 


If you wanted to show aliens a movie of what it is to be a Kiwi I reckon you should show them Dawn Raid. Everything that makes us who we are as a people, nation and culture is found in this film. The dark, ugly stuff is there on the screen too. The dawn raids and the disenfranchisement of the Pacific community, pushed out to the South, as well as the years they had to wait to be recognised as a credible musical force in the New Zealand music scene is up there. It really is sobering stuff. 


But it also contains what makes us a great nation too. The number eight wire mentality - that anything can be achieved through ingenuity, creativity and a dose of courage. That we’re stronger when we back ourselves and each other as well as when we come together no matter our cultural or socio economic background. 


As well as illustrating the great successes in New Zealand and on the world stage of the Dawn Raid label, the film also doesn’t shy away from their failures. In light of the devastation that Covid has brought on many entrepreneurial ventures in New Zealand, Dawn Raid is both a tonic for those who have lost much and a beacon of hope. Tomorrow is a new day. 


Dawn Raid would be nothing without director Oscar Kightley. He has masterfully brought together the different threads of this documentary together to create a film of power, passion and hope. 


Dawn Raid is as Kiwi a film as you could possibly get. Filled with powerful, creative characters who use their ingenuity and a lot of heart and courage on the world stage, Dawn Raid is a must see film that every New Zealander should see.


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