Alan Duff

Behind the Faces

Behind the Faces



Behind the Faces – Series by Alan Duff

A 13 x 1 hour, 3 Seasons television drama series.

Three stories gradually converge: From America to New Zealand, the World War II battlegrounds of Crete and the Pacific, to a German P.O.W camp, a Japanese P.O.W camp.

Unlikely friendships and unions in war and peace.

New York, June 1938, heavyweight German boxer Max Schmeling challenges Joe Louis for his title. American media dub it: “Freedom versus Fascism,” call Max “Hitler’s stooge.” Some black Americans dare to hope a Louis victory might bring an end to segregation. Sparring partner, Karl Engel, has strong Aryan super-race views, not shared by Schmeling, whose loss upsets the Nazis.

In Mississippi, teenage Negro siblings Jess & Betty Hines witness a white mob tar and feather, thence lynch and burn a fellow Negro. Louis’ victory didn’t change a thing. Across the world in New Zealand, a couple walk through their thermally active village of Whaka in Rotorua, with their toddler daughter. Henry Takahe tells his wife he’s signed up for the war in Europe against Hitler.

At army training camp a white guy, Sam Hooper, becomes Henry’s best friend. In Egypt, their special stealth unit create minor havoc amongst Rommel’s troops. Crete the next battle ground. The Nazis conscript Max to humble paratrooper duty; a bad parachute landing on Crete breaks a leg. A large number of Kiwi soldiers are captured. Henry and Sam escape, on the run for months on a German killing spree. But they cannot kill teenage soldiers.

Jess, conscripted into the U.S. Marines, finds himself in New Zealand, a training camp for the Pacific btfCampaign against the Japanese. Marines visit Whaka to see the thermal sights, showering locals with gifts and charm; show the women different dance steps. Jess meets Lena, wife of war-absent Henry Takahe. He’s sent off to fight in the steaming jungles of Burma. A child grows in Lena’s belly.

Eventually rbcdpow1ecaptured, the Kiwi duo arrive to a POW camp lorded over by a bunch of London Cockneys led by a former boxer and criminal, Terry Hatton. Karl’s punishment for association with Schmeling is guard duty at the POW camp in Austria. Henry tries to bust up Terry’s rule and gets soundly whipped. Sam is next. Karl sets aside his racial views and teaches Henry how to box.

A new commandant shows a humane side. Most his staff do not like it, including Karl. The Inspector of Prisons is out to get Commandant Hauer fired. The regional Gestapo commander, Dieter Koch, wants him executed, the camp on minimal rations and under severe discipline. It will be revealed why Walter Hauer is so liberal.

In the jungles of Asia, Jess and his fellow black marines have two enemies: The Japs and their white compatriots. A bunch are taken captive.

It’s Hebtf3ll on earth. Whites still despise blacks. Jess’s extraordinary dance and song routine so often saves his fellow POWs from certain death he wins the whites’ respect. His child back in Whaka, New Zealand, has his 1st birthday. His sister Betty is lynched by a white mob.

Life in the two camps are stark contrasts, along with Lena’s guilt- burdened life back in Whaka village. Three stories keep converging. Sam and Adele are in love. Koch packs Henry off to a notorious punishment prison. Three of his German captors, along with Sam, go and rescue him. First Japan then Germany surrender. Everyone goes their separate ways.

Several stories tell of two nations’ moral failings. Japanese torture of POWs contrast with Hauer’s humane regime. Between Henry & Walter, Karl rejects his super-race views. Sam opens Adele to find a hurt child still angry at her abused childhood.

Season 1 ends and Season 2 has a new young hero dubbed “Yank,” the offspring of Lena and Jess. He’s musically gifted, with the ability to travel back in time to his Maori ancestral pasto another world revealed.

Platinum Bestselling books, Duff also wrote the original screenplay for Once Were Warriors and won NZFT Best Screenplay Award for Brokenhearted.


Once Were Warriors author’s New Series!

Once Were Warriors author’s New Series!

Set in urban Auckland (New Zealand), two original movies precede the series and tell the story of the Heke family; a family descended from Maori warriors, bedeviled by violent father Jake, and the societal problems of being treated as outcasts.


The Series Concept

When the noise stops, silence shouts.

The story opens with the arrival of multiple gangs arriving by convoy at an inter-gang title fight. But there is a history to this gathering that features some of the Heke family, and Jake is not the least of them.

The cast from the books and the movies are ingrained in everyone’s imaginations. Some beg explanation. Why was Jake “The Muss” Heke so angry, and a disproportionate number of Maoris so dysfunctional? Were they once warriors who lost all sense of meaning when European culture took over? With land confiscation, a culture subsumed, was there nothing to replace the lost pride?

A few characters from Once Were Warriors need some explaining. Firstly: Jake Heke. Why the anger and violence? What makes a disproportionate number of Maoris angry? Was it a wrong never healed? Or, was it a culture, a way of life that was brought to an abrupt end with nothing to replace it?

No matter the explanation, if their individual stories were told, surely some redemption would follow? You may finally discover just how awful Jake’s childhood was, and in this story, maybe he is forgiven …

The Story

At high school, a young Jake protects a white boy from Maori bullies and a close bond develops. Jake left school at 16, became a labourer, and spent a good part of his early adulthood on unemployment benefits. His white friend, on the other hand, went to university and became a successful barrister.

The Jake of today sees domestic violence, the drinking culture, as a mirror of his old self. He wants to make amends – but how? As for drugs, he knows nothing until it stumbles into his life in the form of his addicted son, Abe. When Abe dies from an overdose, the Jake of old re-emerges and he seeks out the dealers, bringing him into contact with the gangs that control the drug trade. An immovable object meets the same but in multiple forms.

Since Grace Heke took her own life twenty five years ago, and their son Nig was shot dead in a gang clash, what of the surviving Heke children? Another son, Huata, put his father’s violent ways to positive use and is now a major in the elite army S.A.S.. Forty year old Mark “Boogie” is an administrator for a tribal trust – and gay. Thirty eight year old property investor millionaire Polly still blames her father for causing her beloved sister Grace’s death by suicide.

Out of Jake’s dim schoolboy past comes an encounter with George Trambert. As if fifty years had not passed, they’re close friends again, but both are now mid-sixties wiser. Despite their career and intellectual differences, they learn from each other.

Jake doesn’t know he has a grandson, born of his late son Nig’s loins, brought up by the murdered mother’s sister, Shayla, in a gang house. Butch has his grandad’s fighting genes and wins the inter-gang Top Dog title. The seed hasn’t fallen far from the tree. Jake ends up in Butch’s fight corner. Just part of the process of a man finding himself.

Shayla is significant. From an abused childhood – like so many – she’s raw, loving, dangerous and smart. Another aching heart yearning to have a voice.

A contradiction to the ‘clean & green’ image of New Zealand, it also ranks as the highest rate for gang membership
in the developed world. Jake has seen the gangs’ wild, untamed behaviour; he even clashed with a gang leader in a pub many years ago. Things are different now. The gangs are better organised. They share a drug supply network throughout the country, and have become more influential. The all-white gang, The Devil’s Disciples, have run the drug game in NZ for years, supplying the other gangs.

But New Zealand has changed demographically: Asians, not least Chinese, have become a dominant force in residential and business New Zealand. Madame Guan-yin is ruthless, savvy, and brings cooked meth directly from China. She even flies her new handbag first-class from Hong Kong. Choc Naera, leader of The Cannibals, is not what he seems. He suffers from depression, and despite his violent ways has a soft side, as well as intelligence in need of an outlet. Maybe some moral values are wanting out, too?

There’s the president of the Fist’s Nation gang, aptly named Pitbull, a total arsehole. Shayla, the aunt who raised Butch, is his lover if you’re willing to call it that. Shayla’s had enough of being beaten, of being a woman in a macho society. She forms her own, predominantly female gang.

Nigel Trambert is the son of George, Jake’s lawyer friend. Nigel is a zealous cop out to get as many gang members as he can, by hook or by crook. Nigel eventually has reason to hate Jake Heke. Why is Nigel so angry when he has such nice parents?


Out of Jake’s high school past comes a windfall: a block of residential land gifted in George’s father’s will. He never forgot young Jake protecting his son. Nigel intends challenging the will in court which draws a strong, distinct line within the Trambert family.

Beth Heke has moved on from her violent husband, living a seemingly happy and quite affluent life married to a senior bureaucrat, Charlie Bennett. However, behind closed doors Charlie is a self-obsessed, pompous bore and hopeless in bed. Though he does love her. Beth yearns for a challenge, some kind of distraction. She gets it when her daughter Polly rents out one of her houses to Shayla, who has turned her back on the Fists gang.

The former Heke couple, Jake and Beth, having lost a daughter to suicide, a son in a gang war, and another to drugs, both find themselves unexpectedly involved in lives that they want to protect more than ever. Family means something more now. Life has come full circle. Except Jake has become rich overnight, and outcome that could never have been predicted, and it stirs everything up.

Ultimately, Jake grows as a man. So does his realization that since he was once the problem, now he must be part of the solution to this situation of a people “lost in the wilderness.” Now, he actually has the financial means to do something, as well as having his lawyer friend and access to George’s social network to make things happen.

Just getting there is a long, fraught journey.

Attila – The Making of a Gangster

Attila – The Making of a Gangster


Attila – The Making of a Gangster is based on the novel, Szabad, written by Alan Duff, the author and screenwriter of Once Were Warriors.

The story begins in Budapest in 1956 where young Attila Szabo is a 20 year old university student. He wants to believe in the ideals of communism despite the constant propaganda, food rations, suffocating bureaucracy, and  secret police known as AVO.  When he witnesses the brutal death of his father, something in him breaks and he turns to a different way of being. He learns to be violent and cunning. Driven by necessity, he moves to London in 1963 and carves out a place for himself in a world populated by hardened criminals.

It’s 1956 in Budapest, Hungary. Attila Szabo, a 20 year old university student, faces constant communist propaganda, food rations, suffocating bureaucracy, and the secret police known as AVO. He wants to believe in communism, yet his instincts don’t. His beloved father, unjustly imprisoned, comes home a broken man. Witnessing his father shot dead in the street defiant to the end, something breaks in Attila. Not his will, but innocence. He sees the officials at exclusive restaurants and shops, wining and dining, citizens violently arrested by AVO, the bread queues, and he realizes it’s all a lie.

With his three close friends, Janos, Milan and Klaudia, they break into the homes of officials, mainly to steal decent food. A security guard, Tibor, sees Attila in the street, remembers stopping him in the upper-class neighbourhood. They come to an arrangement.

A beautiful woman, Aranka, her husband and child, move into the flat above the Szabos. Attila instantly smitten by the wife, and a mutual like of her five year old son, Stefan.

If only she wasn’t married. There are signs it’s not a happy marriage. Enter AVO colonel, Zoltan Friss, who’s soon had the husband arrested and regularly forces himself on her. Attila yearns to love her, but in a proper way. Doesn’t notice Klaudia’s jealousy of Aranka.

Friss shoots Attila’s father dead before his eyes. More reason to hate the man.

He acquires a gun, but who to use it on without putting his family and friends at risk? Aranka tells of her anger at Friss’ visits, of her unhappy marriage to an emotionless man. Friss nonchalantattila-hungarian-ffly informs Aranka that her husband was shot dead in prison when involved in a riot. She and Attila become lovers. She starts turning Friss away and he does not like it.

Tibor puts the burgling quartet onto a money trader’s house where they find a large sum of cash in U.S. dollars. A students protest march turns into the Revolution, a full-scale street war starting October 23rd, 1956. All of Attila’s anger – and Aranka’s – comes pouring out in an orgy of – justified – violence. He plays her pimp to lure Russian soldiers to their deaths. They sniper AVO from the rooftops, attack tanks with Molotov cocktails.

timecvrIn London 1963, the stolen money buys Attila first one pub then another. Business booms. Stefan gets into trouble at school, fighting. That brings in a cop, Des Stanford, who is corrupt and greedy. Attila’s Cockney girlfriend introduces him to criminal veteran, Freddie Holman, who sees off some shakedown thugs in violent fashion. A cop on the take gets hungrier. Attila and Freddie set up a card school in the basement of the city pub. It takes off.

His old friends from the past turn up, first Janos then Klaudia. She’s now a stunning, impressive woman.

His businesses drag him deeper into the underworld. At the end of Season 1, the notorious Kray twins pay a visit to his city gambling joint.