Any initiative that supports the development of leadership potential in youth will always get my support.

How we treat them determines the future of our nation so they have to get used to hearing they have unlimited potential.

I didn't hesitate to accept an invitation recently to the Youngatira Film Festival 2018 in Auckland. The event, celebrating the Film Festival's finalists and winners, showcased outstanding leadership potential on the screen.

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It's the brainchild of Te Whanau o Waipareira Trust and other lead agencies in Henderson, Auckland.

Waipareira Trust has a reputation for asking families out west how they can tailor their services better to meet their needs. They design, develop and deliver social services with the needs of families at the centre of everything they do. They take the time to talk and meaningfully engage with their families.

The Youngatira Film Festival 2018 was a red carpet affair, literally. I have never walked a red carpet before. I wasn't sure what to expect but it was just as we've seen on our TV screen.

Actors, writers, producers, directors and invited guests all dressed for the occasion, filmed and photographed as we made slow progress along the carpet.

I spied an Auckland work colleague in the crowd and being without an escort and without actually saying "here, you'll do" got him to accompany me into the theatre.

Being the lovely, vivacious Samoan man that he is, you would have thought he was born for red carpet treatment. He sashayed like a pro. I wasn't sure who was accompanying whom.

The crowded theatre saw industry players, fans and family waiting expectantly. They were not disappointed.

I don't think you'll have heard of any of the stars from the Youngatira Film Festival but one day I'm sure you will. These were the finalists and winners. The innovative leadership programme concentrates on the strengths, abilities and latent potential of youth.


The idea is to take a group of "Youngatahi" (young rangatahi) and develop a programme that sees them emerge as "Youngatira". The programme name was developed by two young people specifically with youth potential in mind. It's catchy.

Over the past 12 months, the group has worked together in front of and behind the cameras. They have worked with professionals in the film industry who helped, guided and supported them to write screenplays and stories, sketch out storyboards and call action with a clapperboard.

They found the locations and held auditions for the various roles. By working together and taking on different jobs in the filmmaking process, the rangatahi have gone from standing back to directing and acting, from ideas to action.

There are various components to the leadership programme including communication, career planning, developing self-confidence, developing good habits, making time for quiet contemplation and exploring options. But central to the programme is filmmaking.

Creating social impact by representing their worldview, through the cinema lens. Film and social media are seen as the future. The programme gives the youth insight and understanding into the world they live in. It has opened their eyes to their own strengths and passions, new opportunities and potential career pathways.

The six short films had themes that were hard-hitting and deep. They touched on the tension around cultural differences, family dynamics and relationships, gangs, religion, suicide prevention and mental health.

I wondered about these heavy subjects but it was what the young people were concerned about, in some instances had already experienced and considered important enough to want their film to speak and reach a wider audience via the screen.

In my opinion, Maori and Pacifica youth appear to be natural actors. They are believable. The film festival showcased their acting talents. Is it because they were telling their stories, exposing experiences that made the acting so real. Was it acting?

I cried at times during the screening. Some of the themes should not be occupying the minds of our youth. Those subjects are for adults to tackle. But these young people cared enough about their world, and those in it, to spend 12 months developing films with underlying messages of hope and love.

They see a better world. They know they can help shape it too. Theirs will be a leadership role.