Julie Zhu 朱常榛


NameJulie Zhu 朱常榛 (she/her)
Country of BirthChina
Place of ResidenceTāmaki Makaurau Auckland
ArtformPodcast, Screen, Theatre
Decades Active2010s, 2020s


Julie Zhu is a filmmaker, photographer, podcaster and producer based in Tāmaki Makaurau. Born in Xi’an, China, Zhu moved to Mount Roskill with her parents and maternal grandparents when she was four years old, before relocating when she was six to East Tāmaki, where she grew up. She has spoken about how she grew up “being Chinese and not wanting to be Chinese”, and how much of her work as an artist involves reclaiming her identity as well as exploring what it means to live in Aotearoa as tangata Tiriti, and how we can uplift marginalised voices through storytelling.

Zhu studied at the University of Auckland, where she tried a lot of different subjects because she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do. “I switched out of art school after my first year and felt like I'd wasted a year of my life. I cried a lot that year. I wish you had one free year to try everything because there's so much pressure to stick to the first thing you try.” She eventually completed a BA (Hons) in Screen Production and a Diploma of Language in te reo Māori in 2015, before going on to complete Te Aupikitanga (2018) and Te Pīnakitanga (2019) at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.

After visiting Waitangi in 2016, Zhu was one of six people who formed Asians Supporting Tino Rangatiratanga. “We have an obligation as tauiwi, or tangata Tiriti,” she has said, “to understand the history of this whenua because we benefit from living here, and because we are still complicit in the ongoing struggles that Māori face.” A year later in 2017, Zhu was selected as the Green Party candidate for the Botany electorate and premiered her first film project, a Loading Docs short documentary, East Meets East, which followed her grandmother, 79-year-old Fang Ruzhen, and her friends on a grocery shopping trip.

This marked the first of many documentary projects by Zhu taking us into the intimate, domestic lives of immigrants. Her podcast series for RNZ, Conversations With My Immigrant Parents, which she co-produces and co-hosts with Saraid de Silva, takes us into the homes of different immigrant families across Aotearoa, giving us a window into their lives and their relationships. This was followed by a short documentary series, Takeout Kids (2022), for The Spinoff, which introduced us to four different young people who are juggling school, friends, and their family shop. Her short film, Lǎo Lao Lǎo Le (2023), represents a shift back into fiction, centering on a young boy who is at home with his grandmother whose health is deteriorating.

Zhu has been an outspoken critic of the arts industry, and in 2019 was invited to be a speaker at the Power of Inclusion film industry summit, where she criticised its inaccessibility and lack of inclusion, and concluded, “Language is important but so is action. It’s not enough for us to simply acknowledge that the word diversity is a cliché if we are not invested in radical change.”

Outside of her screen projects, Zhu works across the cultural sector as a photographer — taking photos of a number of artists and performances — and as a producer, most notably for one-off productions like OTHER [chinese] (2017), Upu Mai Whetū (2018), Burn Her (2018) and improv group Snort. She has worked as a producer for Basement Theatre and Kia Mau Festival and in marketing for Red Leap Theatre, Atamira Dance Company and Te Pou Theatre.


Key works / presentations


2023 — Lǎo Lao Lǎo Le 姥姥老了 (writer and director)
2023 — Kāinga (director of ‘Aho’)
2022 — Takeout Kids (director)
2022 — Meng (director and cinematographer)
2020 — Ace of Hearts (director)
2020 — Mahuru Māori (director, cinematographer and editor)
2019 — Myth of the Model Minority (producer, co-director, co-writer)
2019 — Project Pepeha (director and producer)
2017 — East Meets East (director)


2019–2023 — Conversations With My Immigrant Parents (co-director, co-producer, co-host)

As an independent producer in theatre:

2023 — Janaye Henry: Crush Season
2017–2023 — Snort
2018 — Upu Mai Whetū
2018 — Roots
2018 — Question Time Blues
2018 — Jacinda
2018 — Burn Her
2017 — The Mountaintop
2017 — OTHER [chinese]
2016 — The Opening Night Before Christmas
2016 — Hine

Key awards

2023 — Show Me Shorts: Best Director (Lǎo Lao Lǎo Le)

2023 — Show Me Shorts: Best NZ Film (Lǎo Lao Lǎo Le)

2022 — NZ Web Fest: Best Director for NZ Factual Webseries (Takeout Kids)

Related entries

Last updated: 5 March 2024 Suggest an Edit


Six people of Asian descent holding a banner that says 'Asians Supporting Tino Rangatiratanga'

Asians Supporting Tino Rangatiratanga at Waitangi, 2016

A group of people of Asian descent holding a banner with a 'tino rangatiratanga' flag added on

Asians Supporting Tino Rangatiratanga banner-making session, 2020

A group of people of Asian descent standing in a group with Moana Jackson in the middle

Asians Supporting Tino Rangatiratanga with Moana Jackson, 2018

A group of people of Asian descent marching with a banner

Asians Supporting Tino Rangatiratanga at Waitangi, 2015

A group of people of Asian descent posing with a banner and a Tino Rangatiratanga flag

Asians Supporting Tino Rangatiratanga at Waitangi, 2020

Four camera crew members taking a selfie in a reflective surface

Conversations with My Immigrant Parents, behind the scenes, date unknown

A woman in a mask holding a camera looking at another woman in a denim jacket

Conversations with My Immigrant Parents, behind the scenes, date unknown

A woman in a mask and a yellow beanie standing behind a camera in a dining room

Conversations with My Immigrant Parents, behind the scenes, date unknown

Three people standing outdoors on a film set in masks

Shooting Kāinga, behind the scenes, 2021

Two people standing outdoors on a film set. One is wearing headphones and holding an ipad while wearing an N95 mask while the other (actor) is smiling at them

Shooting Kāinga, behind the scenes, 2021