Documentary Review: ‘Dawn Raid’

Review by James Lindorf

In 1996 two Manukau Polytechnic students and former bootleg t-shirt creators would change the landscape of Hip-Hop in New Zealand. Andy Murnane and Tanielu Leaosavai’i (aka Brotha D) began with a Hip-Hop night at a local bar in Otara. They would end with the influential but short-lived Dawn Raid Entertainment empire. Universal Pictures will bring “Dawn Raid” to all major streaming platforms on January 11th.

Twenty years ago, the New Zealand government began raiding Polynesian communities in South Auckland, searching for overstayers they could deport. As the community seethed with hate and fear, it gave birth to a generation of artists searching for an outlet. Andy and Brotha D would give it to them. Their impressive lineup of artists included Savage, Adeaze, Aaradhna, Decepticonz, Scribe, and more. Thanks to the numerous artists, this Oscar Kightley directed documentary is packed with great music.

The rags to riches and back to rags story of “Dawn Raid” is enthralling for anyone that doesn’t already know their history. At their peak, the Dawn Raid team collaborated with artists like Pitbull and Soulja Boy. They would see their tracks featured in movies like “Knocked Up” and have more gold and platinum albums than they could count. Unfortunately, flying by the seat of your pants is not a great business strategy. Unpaid tax debts, payroll issues, rifts between artists, and a feeling of betrayal were all blows that led to the downfall of Dawn Raid Entertainment. Andy and Brotha D are great ambassadors of themselves, their artists, and their community. They make you want to sit and listen to their stories for hours, and you can’t help but feel bad for them during the downturn and cheer during the rebirth. Your opinion on the music may vary, but it is hard to believe you will leave without loving the people.

“Dawn Raid” is entertaining, enlightening, and joyful, making it the antithesis of its namesake. The best part is learning how the now-defunct label manages to remain an iconic part of Aotearoa’s cultural landscape and an essential part of its history. “Dawn Raid” may be the best music documentary in an excellent year for the genre and is a 4.5 out of 5.

Genre: Documentary
Original Language: English (Australia)
Director: Oscar Kightley
Producer: Leela Menon, Matthew Metcalfe
Writer: Matthew Metcalfe, Tim Woodhouse, Oscar Kightley, Matthew Metcalfe, Tim Woodhouse
Release Date (Streaming): January 11th, 2022
Runtime: 1h 38m

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