Episode 7: Sons for the Return Home (1979)

After a short hiatus we’re back to look at Paul Maunder’s Sons for the Return Home, an adaptation of the acclaimed novel by Albert Wendt. Two young students, Sione and Sarah, embark on a whirlwind romance but struggle against pressure from their families and society.

We also talk to Dr. Kirsten Moana Thompson, Professor of Film Studies at Victoria University, about the significance of the film, and how it deals with the cultural schism at the heart of its story.

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Sons for the Return HomeDirector: Paul Maunder
Executive producer: Don Blakeney
Screenplay: Paul Maunder, from the novel by Albert Wendt
Director of Photography: Alun Bollinger
Editor: Christine Lancaster

…Uelese Petaia
Sarah…Fiona Lindsay
Sione’s mother…Moira Walker
Sione’s father…Lani Tupu
Sarah’s mother…Anne Flannery
Sarah’s father…Alan Jervis


  • Thanks again to Dr. Thompson for taking the time to sit and talk with us about the film. You can find out more about her work on Pacific visual studies, colour aesthetics, animation, and more at her website.
  • Available on DVD from places like Aro Video; more info and sources at NZ Videos. As noted in the episode the quality isn’t great, and this is sadly true for many existing releases of Kiwi films.
  • Our discussion of the great Lani Tupu ended up being cut to keep the episode at a reasonable length, so I’d like to note here how good his performance is. He makes a significant impression with what ends up being fairly limited screen time.
  • This episode has had the longest gestation period of any in the series so far. During the process we watched the film no less that three times and made multiple recording attempts before settling on the final version.
  • Despite our significant misgivings about the film, in the days after watching it we would both remember certain scenes and ideas with an unexpected fondness. That fondness would be quickly dispelled upon re-watching, but the film certainly leaves a mark.
  • There are some great shots of various locations around Wellington, particularly the Victoria University Library. None of them seem to have changed all that much.

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