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Dawn Raid (2021) – Review: A Thrilling Documentary About Two Men Who Swung Big To Achieve Massive Success

January 10, 2022

Quick Thoughts – Grade – A: Dawn Raid is a thrilling documentary that chronicles the rise and fall of the New Zealand based record label Dawn Raid Entertainment. The energy and personalities of the particpants are infectious, and you will find yourself loving the Oscar Knightley directed documentary. Also, you’ll need to create a new Spotify playlist so you can listen to all the Dawn Raid artists (If you haven’t already).

Directed by Oscar Knightley, who says the documentary  is a “achievement of cultural empowerment, and a narrative of failure, or crushing defeat and devastating loss,” Dawn Raid is an excellently orchestrated experience that showcases the rise and fall, and rise again of the New Zealand based music label Dawn Raid Entertainment. What makes Dawn Raid such an engrossing experience are the cast of characters who are open and honest about the record label which started in 1999, and was liquidated in 2007 after poor choices, and minimal business experience closed down the South Auckland business. Founded by Brotha D” Leaosavai’i and Andy Murnane, who named the label after the infamous dawn raids that took place in New Zealand between the 1970s and 1980s, Dawn Raid Entertainment exploded in popularity in the early 2000s as artists such as Savage and Mareko achieve worldwide fame. 

What I really like about the documentary is how Brotha D and Murnanae are open and honest about their strengths and failures which lead to the rise and fall of the record label. While I’ve never created a record label that sold millions of albums and singles, I completely understand how two kids in their early twenties could succeed on sheer will and naivety. The two entrepreneurs built a business with provocative T-shirts, then expanded into producing music inside a makeshift studio, and then went on worldwide tours before realizing they were deep in debt after not adapting with the music industry, or paying attention to creditors who were about to eat them alive. To succeed, they needed to spend money, and for a while that worked as artists like Savage and Mareko traveled to New York City, and were able to record with artists from the Wu-Tang Clan and Akon. However, with illegal downloads, several expensive social programs, and a huge staff (add in big houses and very expensive weddings), the roof caved in on them, and they were forced to liquidate everything. What’s neat about Dawn Raid, is how Brotha D and Murnanae never gave up, and because of that, the company rose from the ashes, as several of their songs (Savage’s Swing was/is HUGE) blew up in popularity due to the movie Knocked Up and TikTok videos. 

Most importantly, the energy in Dawn Raid is electric because of Brotha D and Murnaneu, who make for wonderful narrators because they’re filled with enthusiasm and love for their company and South Auckland. The editing in the doc is excellent too, and a lot of credit needs to go to editor Tim Woodhouse for combing through endless footage to create a well-balanced and dynamic experience. While some of the participants have complained about their portrayals in the documentary, it’s clear that both men understand that in their quest to be millionaires, they dropped the ball, and let a thriving and audacious empire crumble. Their ambition worked against them, and it’s totally possible to think they’d still be operating their studio, store and barbershop in South Auckland if they hadn’t shot for the stars.

If you are looking for an enlightening and charming documentary about two men who dreamed big, and achieved success (and failure), you should definitely check out Dawn Raid.

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