Accessibility Links

Illustrious Energy

1h 30m Drama 1988

Directed by: Leon Narbey
Written by: Leon Narbey and Martin Edmond

This largely unseen little gem gives a brilliant and honest view of the racism faced by Chinese immigrants who came to New Zealand in the 1890s to mine for gold.

In a remote valley, two miners are desperate to improve their lot in life. Change is imminent with surveyors scouting the area. Kim wants to return to China, and his son-in-law, Chan is restless and impatient with their ongoing failure to find the gold they seek. When they do strike gold on their claim, it looks like their troubles will soon be over. But for Chan, this is just the beginning of his journey.

The Central Otago setting is beautifully evoked and it’s hard to imagine that such cruelty could take place in a place so gorgeous. Yet the reality the Chinese faced was harsh and often life-threatening.

Illustrious Energy is the renowned feature-directing debut of cinematographer Leon Narbey whose work on films like Whale Rider has been much lauded.


Shaun Bao (Chan) , Harry Ip (Kim) , Peter Chin (Wong) , Geeling (Li) , Desmond Kelly (Surveyor) , Heather Bolton (Mrs Wong) , Peter Hayden (Reverend Don)


Leon Narbey


Martin Edmond


Leon Narbey


John Reynolds

Assoc. Producer

Chris Hampson

Production Designer

Janelle Aston


David Coulson

Costume Designer

Trixie Woodill




New Zealand



Download the app to view your purchased content!