What do an overstayer from Nauru, an extreme anxiety sufferer, an Afghani refugee and a young runaway all have in common?
They’ve all been caught by the rock-iron mitts and big heart of Billy Graham and his Naenae boxing academy. And they all feature in Mark Albiston’s documentary, Billy & The Kids, which is part of Sweetshop’s new entertainment undertaking.
It has already been selected for the New Zealand International Film Festival (NZIFF) – hopefully with more accolades to come.
“The short and long form films I’ve made have competed in Cannes and Sundance, but I’ve spent most of my time in the last couple of years directing commercials locally and internationally with Sweetshop,” Albiston commented.
“It’s a fantastic place to work and when they started getting serious about making docos and drama, I was very excited. They have invested time, expertise and money into the documentary and have been super supportive of my time away from commercials to make Billy & The Kids. I’m developing other film projects together with Sweetshop, but I’m proud to say Billy & the Kids is the first.”
As a youngster, Billy grew up rough and was heading for life in a “boys home” before his boxing coach, Dick Dunn, saved him. Now Billy has five boxing academies in some of the toughest parts of New Zealand and they’re all trying to save kids just like him. Albiston’s documentary has a remarkable power. It will have you letting kids into your heart who usually cause society to lock their doors to keep them out.
“We’re not talking about making champion young boxers. We’re talking about making champion young people,” Billy Graham stated.
The documentary is personal for Albiston, who enrolled his own son in Graham’s academy and watched him thrive there.
Albiston commented, “I was inspired to make a documentary without any funding, as it was just something that had to be made. Teen suicide in New Zealand is through the roof, places like these gyms save kids and that’s not an exaggeration. We’re not sure where the film will go, we used our professional contacts and invested our time to bring this to life because it had to be made.”
The Billy Graham Youth Foundation (BGYF) was established in response to numerous requests from communities throughout Aotearoa wanting gyms like the Naenae Boxing Academy to foster their young people. The BGYF has been a deliberately slow with its response, involving lots of wise council and reflection, with numerous feasibility studies and processing of ideas as a result.
Sharlene George, global executive producer and founder at Sweetshop stated, “To see this documentary come to life is incredibly satisfying. It really has been a pure project of passion for Mark and Sweetshop couldn’t be happier to be part of a film that changes the conversation, donating our time, resources and funding to a cause we believe in.”
“Coming to boxing every week should be the same as going to school every day.” [Genuine Mahu]
“Coming to gym changes your life I think…” [Ali Raza Ismahtullah]
Read Mark Albiston’ behind-the-scenes Q&A:
Visit Billy & The Kids website here.
Donate to Billy Graham’s initiative.
Directed By: Mark Albiston
Director of Photography: Marty Williams
Produced By: Sharlene George
Production Manager: Tom Kelly
Gaffer & Grip: Craig Farrand
1st Assistant Camera: Willy Pearce
DIT: Martin Le Breton
Sound: Joel Anscombe-Smith
Art Director: Josh O’Neill
Art Department Assistants: Sam Small & Lisa Ellingham
Camera Equipment: Metro Film
Lighting & Grip equipment: Gunmetal
Editors: Mark Albiston, Liam Bachler, Hamish Waterhouse & Luke Haigh
Grade: Pete Ritchie
Online Post Production: Creature Post
Sound Editor: Melanie Graham
Composition: Grayson Gilmour