Screened as part of NZIFF 2005

Tug of Love 2004

Directed by Tosca Looby

Riveting documentary about the parental abduction of children, a frequent and alarming occurrence in a world where international marriages – and separations – are on the rise.

52 minutes 35mm



Andrew Ogilvie


Tosca Looby
Victor Gentile


Ian Batt


David Fosdick


Tim Count
Keith Van Geyzel


Angie Milliken


Vincent Gorce
Kayla Gorce
Ellen Flatters
Ben Lawrence
Liss Hart-Haviv


Parental abduction of children is sure-fire tabloid fodder, and torrid tales of international custody battles abound in a world where international marriages – and separations – are on the rise. Tosca Looby’s documentary wears the ‘tug of love’ label popularly applied to such cases, but the addition of a question mark would not be out of place in its title. The focus is very much on the toll that the conflicting claims of alienated parents extract from the children caught in the middle. It also provides vivid evidence of the need for legal cooperation between countries. Abduction of a contested child from one jurisdiction into another has offered many a parent the opportunity to evade unwelcome court decisions. 

Looby follows several cases, showing considerable sensitivity to the distress of both abductors and those whose children have been abducted, all the while asking us to consider the suggestion that such abductions might helpfully be considered assertions of possession, not love. No one speaks more pungently in this powerful film than four-and-a-half-year old Kayla who’s been abducted by her moher from Australia to Tonga, and is faced with the prospect, in the course of the movie, of returning to Australia with her determined and deeply aggrieved father. — BG

Parental child abduction is not an easy subject to document. For everyone involved it is a minefield of raw emotions, dominated by lots and lots of anger. For this reason it wasn’t easy to get people to speak on the subject and I’m very grateful to those who participated, especially Kayla… For me it was Kayla ho most wisely reasoned with the adults controlling her splintered world and in doing so, let us all know why parental child abduction takes everyone prisoner… 

As social animals we seem to instinctively need to judge our fellow humans and making a story about parents who abduct, or are left behind, is no different. As a team of programme makers we were constantly debating the motivating factors and ‘worthiness’ of the parents with whom we were in contact. Ultimately though, we hope we’ve created a film which states the case for the children. There is no doubt that parents abduct for many reasons. Often their motives can seem very reasonable, even advantageous for the children in cases of domestic violence or abuse, for example. But whatever the motivating factor for parents, what made me most sorry was the responsibility children felt and their desire to ‘clean up’ the problems of a perplexing adult world. — Tosca Looby