Obrero as Transmedia Documentary Project

Obrero (worker) is an independent multi-platform documentary project. It tells the story of Filipino rebuild workers temporarily migrating to Christchurch after the earthquake in 2011. The project is comprised of three media formats, the documentary film, the interactive documentary (i-doc) and the social media page. Not only using multiple platforms, Obrero also employs a transjournalistic mode of representation, expanding the reportage of labour migration through different documentary variants. The project aims to contextualise the culture of labour migration in the Philippines by featuring Filipino builders in Christchurch as documentary participants and using the Christchurch rebuilding as a backdrop to its narrative. More importantly, it aims to stimulate social transformation by providing media platforms that explore the issues, struggles and realities confronting our modern-day overseas workers.

Although focused on the Filipino migrants, Obrero represents a bigger global labour migration trend. Recent statistics shows that roughly 258 million people have migrated and taken residence outside their country of origin. The focus on the Philippines’ experience is even more important given the nation’s reputation as a “pioneer” in the “global enterprise” of labour. Therefore, while Obrero documentary explores the experience of a relatively small number of migrants working in New Zealand, the project is applicable elsewhere, as economic issues, migration policies and social impact of migration transcend geographical boundaries.

Story synopsis

After the devastating earthquake that struck Christchurch in 2011, the city sought construction workers from overseas. Around 3000 Filipinos have been granted ‘essential skills visas’ to work for the rebuild. But some workers remain without an income for a year, as they are paying large recruitment fees. Obrero (worker) paints a portrait of a recovering city and tells the struggles and dreams of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) who migrated for the rebuild.


Obrero is dedicated to all Overseas Filipino Workers in New Zealand and worldwide.


Obrero would not have been possible without the logistical, academic, and funding support of the University of Auckland.   

2018 ILO Global Media Competition

on Labour Migration

Director's Bio

Norman Zafra is a Filipino journalist-documentary maker and currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Auckland's Media and Communication Department. He has worked as producer, writer and director of award-winning Philippine TV documentary programmes such as Reporter’s Notebook and I-Witness. More info here.

Norman Zafra

Obrero documentary film

  • Official selection and Finalist, Best NZ Short, 13th Documentary Edge International Festival, Wellington/Auckland New Zealand

  • Invited for screening, Cinematografo International Film Festival, San Francisco, USA

  • Informal film screening

    • Host: University of Canterbury (UC) ​Balangay, 4 August 2018 URL

    • Host: Media & Communication Department, UC, 6 August 2018 URL

Obrero interactive documentary

Give Us Your Feedback

Alternatively, you may also send an email to Obrero director Norman Zafra at n.zafra@auckland.ac.nz