Shuchi Kothari


NameShuchi Kothari
Country of BirthIndia
Place of ResidenceTāmaki Makaurau Auckland
Decades Active2000s, 2010s, 2020s


Shuchi Kothari is a filmmaker and academic originally from Ahmedabad, India. Since immigrating to Aotearoa, she has worked as a screenwriter and producer across TV series, documentaries, feature films and short films, as well as operating in the mentoring and advocacy space on projects in support of pan-Asian inclusion and representation. As an Associate Professor at the University of Auckland, she also convenes the Screen Production Programme and conducts research towards Asian participation and visibility in the media industry.

Kothari studied screenwriting at the University of Texas, Austin, where she initially enrolled to do a Master's in directing film. After changing majors and completing her master's, she continued her academic journey as a PhD candidate studying the genre of soap operas in the context of Pakistan. She taught screenwriting for three years at UT Austin before moving to Tāmaki Makaurau in 1997.

Kothari first came to prominence as the writer and presenter of A Taste of Place: Stories of Food and Longing (2001), a documentary for TV1 exploring the link between food and identity in multicultural Aotearoa. She would continue to tell stories around this theme while simultaneously expanding the scope of what constitutes a ‘New Zealand story’ through ethnically diverse films such as Fleeting Beauty (2004), Clean Linen (2006), Coffee & Allah (2007) and Apron Strings (2008).

On defining the origin of these films, Kothari has said: “I find it very restrictive to think of New Zealand stories as the ones that are only set here. For instance, Coffee & Allah was...about an Ethiopian Muslim woman’s desire to communicate [in Aotearoa]. Fleeting Beauty was about a ‘colonial subject’ rewriting Indian history by painting with spices of her Pākehā lover’s body. In Apron Strings, [co-writer] Dianne Taylor and I used food as a metaphor to speak about difference and ‘othering’.”

Alongside the release of Apron Strings, Kothari contributed to both local and international screen productions in 2008. She co-wrote Firaaq with Nandita Das, the Indian actress best known for starring in Deepa Mehta’s arthouse hits Fire (1996) and Earth (1998); and with regular collaborator Sarina Pearson co-created the comedy series A Thousand Apologies for TV3, which was a breakthrough for Asian representation on network television in Aotearoa at the time. A decade later, she would direct her first film, Shit One Carries (2018), a father-and-son story shot in India. Although completed in Aotearoa and selected for the New Zealand International Film Festival, the film did not meet the eligibility requirement for the New Zealand Film Commission’s short film production fund.

“I strongly believe that if public funding mandates ‘New Zealand stories by New Zealanders’ we need to deepen our understanding of New Zealanders and widen our definition of New Zealand stories,” she argued in a 2019 interview about the making of the film. “If you come from other places and become a Kiwi, your ‘other places’ have an imprint on you, on your being a New Zealander. I’m a ‘Kiwi-Indian’. I am this hyphenated person. Both places carry the other place.”

As both a practitioner and an academic, Kothari is also hyphenated in her role as a screen industry leader, investigating the under-representation of pan-Asian creatives as a researcher (a project funded by The Royal Society of New Zealand’s Marsden Fund), and lobbying for policy and funding change through the Pan-Asian Screen Collective, which she co-founded in 2018. In 2022 she co-produced the anthology film Kāinga, which was written and directed entirely by pan-Asian women filmmakers.

In 2022 Kothari received WIFT New Zealand’s Outstanding Contribution to the New Zealand Screen Industry award for her long and sustained work as a practitioner and champion of the film and television industry in Aotearoa.


Key works / presentations

As producer:

2022 — Kāinga (anthology feature film)

As writer and director:

2018 — Shit One Carries (short film)

As writer and producer:

2008 — Apron Strings (feature film)
2008 — A Thousand Apologies (TV series), TV3
2007 — Coffee & Allah (short film)
2006 — Clean Linen (short film)

As writer:

2008 — Firaaq (feature film)
2004 — Fleeting Beauty (short film)

As writer and presenter:

2001 — A Taste of Place: Stories of Food and Longing (TV series), TVNZ

Key awards

2022 — Hawai’i International Film Festival: NETPAC Award, Best Asian Film (Kāinga)

2022 — Women in Film and Television New Zealand Awards: Great Southern Film & Television Award for Outstanding Contribution to the New Zealand Screen Industry

2010 — Filmfare Awards: Critics’ Award for Best Film (Firaaq)

2009 — Women in Film and Television International Awards: Best Feature Film (Apron Strings)

2008 — International Film Festival of Kerala: Best Debut Feature (Firaaq)

2008 — Thessaloniki Film Festival: Special Jury Prize (Firaaq)

2008 — Hawaii International Film Festival: Best Short Film (Coffee & Allah)

2008 — ‘Golden Minbar’ International Festival of Muslim Cinema: Best Short Film (Coffee & Allah)

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Last updated: 29 February 2024 Suggest an Edit