New Zealander’s have a desire for the do-it-yourself attitude and taking on the world, and that’s exactly what best friends Danny “Brotha D” Leaosavai’i and Andy Murnane set out do back in 1999 when they decided to up-end the New Zealand music industry with NZ’s first-ever independent hip-hop label Dawn Raid Entertainment. Dawn Raid is their story, and director Oscar Kightley presents a fascinating documentary that showcases the rise, fall and rebirth of one of New Zealand’s most iconic music labels in what can best be described as a ‘true-life Rocky’ story.
The rise, fall and spiritual rebirth of the most iconic and influential music label in Pacific history, Dawn Raid Entertainment.
As a director, Knightly takes audiences right into the heart of the Dawn Raid story with a very intimate and honest sit down with Brotha D and Andy, and we get the full breadth of their tale. As kids from the wrong side of the tracks, these two had to battle for everything they had in life, but their commitment to each other and desire to turn negatives into positives laid the foundation for what Dawn Raid Entertainment was. Through grit and grind, we watch them rise to be a global powerhouse, not only in the Pasifika hip-hop scene but also on the world stage, where Dawn Raid Entertainment would make a sizeable impact in the American market.
Knightly presents Dawn Raid as a narrative of open dialogue, not only with Brotha D and Andy, but also the artists and executives who had a big hand in building the Dawn Raid Entertainment label. And as an audience member, it’s great to hear these stories come out. One thing about the Dawn Raid movie that made it so interesting was just the honest and open conversation that Brotha D and Andy have when discussing their early business dealings, and that for the most part, in the beginning, they were just ‘winging it’ in pure street hustler style. There’s a fun humour to their memories of their time building their company and there’s no doubt that these two are a genuine pair of characters.
While the business rhetoric does take a central part in Dawn Raid’s story, it’s the film’s focus on how these two men wanted to change the standing of their families and their community where Dawn Raid truly finds its heart. Both Brotha D and Andy are straight up about how they had it hard growing up, and that through their desire for success and a titan-like work ethic they were able to provide to their families, and improve their community on a grand scale. This community work also included fostering young talent who had a voice and stories to tell, and artists such as Savage, Mareko, Deceptikonz, Adeaze and Aaradhna were able to take their talents to the world, and it’s inspiring to hear their perspectives for the first time.
The highs of Dawn Raid are awe-inspiring for audiences, but Knightly also presents the dramatic lows that Dawn Raid Entertainment had to face and that comes squarely when our two protagonists took their eye off the ball and flew to close to the sun. It’s an extremely sobering moment to hear how Brotha D and Andy lost control of their company and how they were left on the verge of a very bleak abyss. But these two are fighters and in a third act that is part of every major heroic story, they come out swinging and make their comeback in a triumphant fashion that is in perfect keeping with their distinctive Kiwi style and the underground identity of Dawn Raid Entertainment.
Ultimately Dawn Raid is the story of two brothers who had a dream and went for it with everything that had. For those looking for some inspiration and wanting to know what happens when you actually do follow your dreams, Dawn Raid is the perfect film to watch and is an incredible story of two local boys who did good. Trust me, you don’t want to miss out on this one.
Image: 387 Productions