October 15 is a date etched into the memories of many New Zealanders. It is a day when the word ‘terrorism’ became part of this small country’s vocabulary, not a word bandied about in reportage of war zones and conflicts in other countries.
October 15 is a day when the world shifted and the perceptions of who New Zealanders were and how we behaved was skewed forever.
Heavily armed police in black para-military clothing, faces covered, descended on the small hill-country towns of the Tuhoe tribe. Men, women and children were woken in the early hours by armed police. They were detained in sheds, outdoors or in police vehicles, for up to seven hours, then released, some never charged with any offence.
Police later claimed military-style training camps were being held to create a guerrilla army in the hills of the Tuhoe area, that there were death threats against the Prime Minister Helen Clark. Possession of bombs and firearms were claimed. Shock, degradation and anger were not only felt by the people of Tuhoe but by fellow New Zealanders, confused in a gunless, bicultural society, already fraught with racial tension.
The impact of 9/11 reverberated around the world. And in reaction New Zealand passed the Terrorism Suppression Act. This was the first enactment of that law.
October 15 explores the aftermath of the October 15 anti-terrorism raids by police on the people of Tuhoe in remote Ruatoki Valley of the North Island of New Zealand, and beyond.
Tuhoe is known as a rebellious tribe, eager to proclaim its sovereignty. But the strike on this community, the nature of the herding of men, women and children, shocked the previously civil and “developed” country of New Zealand.
Filmed over two and a half year October 15 interweaves the legal proceedings, animation and intimate interviews of the events, revealing how lives were touched in the days, weeks and years following the raids as many Tuhoe sought to comprehend what happened that day and pursue redress from the State for the shock and degradation they experienced.
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