Watch 'Finding Her Beat' and More at Doc Edge 2023

Dubbed as "one of the most captivating documentaries of the year" by Film Threat, and receiving rave reviews from critics, 'Finding Her Beat' has made its highly anticipated debut in New Zealand as part of the exciting lineup of the Doc Edge Festival 2023. Currently captivating audiences at the Capitol Theatre in Auckland, the film will soon make its way to Wellington on 10 June at the Roxy.

This compelling documentary shines a spotlight on the breaking of gender stereotypes and the promotion of women's empowerment.

The film follows the journey of Jennifer Weir, an accomplished Japanese drum master, and Korean adoptee from North Dakota, joined forces with a talented ensemble of female Taiko drummers from Japan and North America. Their mission is to challenge long-standing gender norms that have restricted the cultural spotlight to men.

Taiko Master Tiffany Tamaribuchi. Photo supplied.

Taiko drumming is an ancient form of Japanese percussion music that centres around the playing of big drums. It holds deep roots in Japanese culture and folklore, captivating audiences not only with its musical performance but also its physical and visual spectacle.

The drumming is characterized by energetic rhythms, synchronized movements, and choreographed routines that showcase the performers' strength, precision, and artistry.

Conventionally, women have been excluded from participating in Taiko drumming as perceived not physically able to keep up with the rigorous demands of the art form. The women only dance, but men play the drums.

Traditional Taiko groups in Japan primarily consisted of male performers, reflecting societal and cultural gender roles of the time.

In an interview with the Asia Media Centre, directors Dawn Mikkelson and Keri Pickett share their insights into the making of Finding Her Beat.

Mikkelson, a seasoned filmmaker, initially began filming the group as a promotional video for grant purposes at the request of her friend, Weir, who is also the executive director of Taiko Arts Midwest. However, as she witnessed the intense training, fortitude, and determination of these women in pursuing their passion, she realised their story is worth telling the world.

Mikkelson states, "We [Jennifer and I] were also talking about what it was like to be a woman in a male-dominated field, and documentary film is clearly that, and Taiko is clearly that. So, we had that kind of common ground. We're also both mothers of young girls, and so this idea of who those girls are going to see as heroes and who are these people in their lives? I think also the piece about being a mom and being an artist at the same time was interesting to me."

Producers and directors of the film: (L-R) Dawn Mikkelson, Jennifer Weir, and Keri Pickett. Photo supplied.

As the women prepare for their highly anticipated centre stage performance, they also face the challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which put the world on pause for three years.

Nevertheless, the pandemic fails to diminish the unwavering spirit of these women as they strive for a shared goal, making resilience and unity a central part of the film that resonate with audiences.

Pickett adds, "That inner challenge of belonging. Do I belong here? And these are universal questions faced by the artists… There's a direction in where the characters are going. What are they struggling with? What are their innermost fears? What's the transformation that happens over the journey that we were so lucky to be able to be led in for? You know, it's really a gift to be able to watch it."

Visually stunning cinematography, captivating scoring, and immersive drumbeat audio enhance the viewing experience of Finding Her Beat, evoking powerful emotions within the audience.

One of the group's stunning performances in the film. Photo: Still from Finding Her Beat

The film's narrative of hardships, triumphs, and sisterhood provides an inspirational and empowering atmosphere.

Before venturing into the theatres to see the film, Pickett offers a friendly reminder, advising viewers to "bring your tissues and soak in the joy and empowerment that seems to emanate from that drum and all of those women claiming their place with it."

Despite Mikkelson's impressive list of film creations, she states that Finding Her Beat is likely the most joyful film she has ever made, as it shifted her perception to truly understand the essence of "working together, we all rise together."

Apart from Finding Her Beat, here are the list of documentaries created by Asian directors and stories revolves around Asian perspective that you may catch in theatres or online. These films cover a wide variety of topics, such as climate change, personal development, societal transformation, gripping crime investigations, and immersive digital narratives created with the assistance of artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR).

Still from Pacific Mother's trailer. Photo: Doc Edge page.

Pacific Mother

Sachiko Fukumoto and William Trubridge, a couple passionate about freediving, became acutely aware of the limited options faced by many parents as they navigated the maternity system for the birth of their first child. This realisation prompted them to embark on a journey of discovery. In the wake of the success of their short documentary 'Water Baby,' director McRae follows Sachiko as she engages with women from various Pacific regions such as Hawai’i, Tahiti, the Cook Islands, and Aotearoa New Zealand. Through the intertwined narratives of these women, the film delves into themes of community, the revival of traditional birthing knowledge, and the profound connection between nurturing parents, children, and the planet.

This film won several awards at Doc Edge Festival 2023:

  • Best New Zealand Feature
  • Best New Zealand Director
  • Best New Zealand Editing
  • Best New Zealand Cinematography


The Capitol Auckland, 5 June 2023, 6:30pm

The Roxy Wellington, 8 June 2023, 6:00pm

Call Me Dancer: Dance to your own beat. Photo: Doc Edge programme.

Call Me Dancer 

Among the notable entries for this category is "Call Me Dancer" by Leslie Shampaine and Pip Gilmour. It tells the story of Manish, an Indian athlete with a passion for hip-hop dancing, who confronts the expectations of his hard-working parents, urging him to pursue a conventional career path.

Despite the challenges he faces, Manish's unwavering ambition, passion, and determination drive him to pursue his love for dance. From the streets of Mumbai to the grand stages of New York, he pushes himself beyond limits to prove his capabilities.

This film won Best Picture for the Art of Storytelling category at Doc Edge Festival 2023.


The Capitol Auckland, 4 June, 5.45pm

The Roxy Wellington, 17 June, 6.30pm

All Static & Noise: Silence no more. Photo supplied.

All Static & Noise

This powerful film illuminates the extensive atrocities committed by the Chinese government against the Uyghur and Kazakh minorities residing in Western China. It provides a forum for survivors and their families to share harrowing testimonies and personal accounts of enduring oppressive practises in China's "re-education camps."

Through the stories of Jewher, a young Uyghur girl forcibly separated from her father, and Abduweli, a linguist and poet who endured imprisonment and torture, the film highlights the moral conundrum faced by those who wish to speak out against state-sanctioned oppression but fear for the safety of their loved ones.

This film won Best Picture for the Crime & Conspiracy category at Doc Edge Festival 2023.


The Roxy Wellington, 9 June, 6pm

Make People Better: Playing God has a price. Photo: Doc Edge programme

Make People Better

In 2018, Dr. He Jiankui, a Chinese scientist, made a cornerstone achievement by successfully editing the genomes of embryos, resulting in the birth of the world's first genetically modified babies. This controversial experiment, which received support from the Chinese government and prominent U.S. scientists, sparked global outrage and led to Dr. He's subsequent disappearance, as well as raising concerns about the fate of the twin girls whose genes were altered.

Director Sheehy's thrilling film delves into the untold story behind this contentious event. It incorporates testimonies from whistleblowers, unprecedented interviews with Dr. He himself and offers a glimpse into a future where the concept of designer babies becomes the norm.


The Roxy Wellington, 10 June, 6.45pm

Eat Bitter: Two men, two countries, whatever it takes. Photo: Doc Edge programme.

Eat Bitter 

Co-directors Ningyi Sun and Pascale Appora-Gnekindy deliver a captivating narrative centred on the lives of a Chinese construction manager and a Central African labourer. These two people are working together to build a new bank while dealing with the terrible reality of civil conflict, poverty, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The film dive into the myriad personal and professional problems they face, including attempted suicide and unexpected turns of events that jeopardise their hopes for a better future. Set against this turbulent backdrop, the directors deftly investigate the enormous impact of geopolitical and economic factors on the lives of these people. In doing so, they provide a thought-provoking analysis of how larger societal issues affect and influence ordinary people's futures.


The Roxy Wellington, 12 June, 12.15pm

Into the Shaolin: Where Kung Fu meets spirituality. Photo: Doc Edge programme.

Into the Shaolin 

The Shaolin Monastery, the origin of Chinese Chan and Kung Fu, is the setting for the film directed by Hongyun Sun. She goes on a field study, investigating the martial arts' role in the ideology of peace and enlightenment through daily meditation and rituals.

Despite practising martial arts all around the world, these monks however lack the practical abilities required for employment outside the temple. Instead of featuring Kung Fu heroes which typically seen on mainstream media, the film depicts the realities of these monks’ everyday lives and their unwavering devotion to their chosen career.


The Roxy Wellington, 11 June 2023, 4.30pm

Mountain Man, an international short film from Bhutan. Photo: Doc Edge programme.

Mountain Man 

Phuntsho Tshering, the sole glaciologist in Bhutan, undertakes the crucial task of monitoring the melting glaciers in the Himalayas. In his quest, he traverses sacred mountains and confronts the far-reaching impact of climate change, all with the aim of safeguarding his homeland.

Meanwhile, his daughter, Yangchen, finds comfort in the videos he records during his absence. This touching narrative serves as a poignant reminder of the significance of preserving our planet for future generations and highlights the profound beauty of the bond shared between a father and his daughter.


The Roxy Wellington, 8 June 2023, 4pm

The House of Loss, a short film about geriatric patients in Japan and South Korea. Photo: Doc Edge programme.

The House of Loss

The short film directed by Jinkyu Jeon tells the narrative of a worker in a nursing home who bears witness to the day-to-day hardships and losses experienced by the elderly patients he cares for. In spite of the evident challenges, he derives strength and motivation from the fortitude of his patients who are determined to live their lives to the fullest despite the difficulties they face.


The Roxy Wellington, 8 June 2023, 4pm

Her Scents of Pu Er, with Chinese tea Master Tseng. Photo: Doc Edge programme.

Her Scents of Pu Er 

This stunning film takes the audience into the world of tea with Master Tseng, the first woman to become the Master of Tea in China. The director, Anna-Claria Ostasenko Bogdanoff, explores the importance of connecting with our senses and finding beauty in the world through tea’s scents.

Online: 19 June – 9 July

My Grandmother is a Bird, a film revolves around an 88-year old Chinese-Indonesia woman. Photo: Doc Edge programme.

My Grandmother is a Bird 

Andrea Suwito delved into the significance of how our personal histories can shape our sense of self. Through a captivating case study, the film follows the story of Indriati, an 88-year-old woman of Chinese-Indonesian descent. Six decades prior, her name was altered by the Indonesian government, prompting her to embark on a profound quest to rediscover her true identity.

The film serves as a poignant exploration of the complex themes of identity, memory, and cultural heritage.

Online: 19 June – 9 July

The After: A Chef's Wish, an inspiring film from Pakistan. Photo: Doc Edge programme.

The After: A Chef’s Wish 

Chef Fatima Ali, a beloved champion of Top Chef: Season 15, utilized the medium of food to foster connections between cultures and bring happiness to underprivileged communities in Pakistan. Tragically, after her passing, her brother Mohammed has dedicated himself to carrying on her legacy.

He has channeled his grief into a mission of using the transformative power of food to unite people and create a meaningful difference in the world. This inspiring story serves as a compelling testament to the profound impact that food, culture, and social change can have when they intersect. For those interested in exploring the potential of these intersections, this film is a definite must-see.

Online: 19 June – 9 July

The Jungle People is an AI film created by Eddie Wong from Malaysia. Photo: Doc Edge programme.

The Jungle People 

Eddie Wong's AI film depicts a critical period in the history of Malaysia, the Malayan Emergency also known as the Anti-British National Liberation War, which spanned from 1948 to 1960. It was a violent insurgency led by the Malayan Communist Party against the British colonial administration and the newly formed Federation of Malaya.

The insurgents operated mainly in the jungles and rural areas, utilizing violent tactics such as ambushes and bombings.

Wong's film focused on the profound impact on the family of a Communist guerrilla combatant during this period. The feature narrative represents a committed effort to make a captivating story accessible and inclusive to a broad audience.


Auckland Central Library, 11 May - 4 June

Doc Edge Pop Up Exhibition, 113 Taranaki St., Wellington, 12 June - 18 June

Diagnosia is a 30-min VR film about Beijing's military-operated camp. Photo: Doc Edge programme.


Mengtai Zhang, creator of Diagnosia, produced an immersive VR experience that prompts viewers to deeply contemplate the issue of internet addiction. Through this captivating VR journey, audiences are transported to the military-operated Internet addiction camp in Beijing in 2007.


Auckland Central Library, 11 May - 4 June

Doc Edge Pop Up Exhibition, 113 Taranaki St., Wellington, 12 June - 18 June


- Asia Media Centre