Annie Goldson, NZOM, is probably New Zealand's most awarded documentary filmmaker. Her work — including the feature-length Punitive Damage, An Island Calling, and Brother Number One — often examines the political through the personal. Goldson's films have played widely overseas, and won awards in New Zealand, England, Spain, France, the Philippines and the United States.
The trick in documentary it seems to me is how to provide historical context without oversimplification of history, while sustaining the narrative momentum of the personal story. Annie Goldson, to Listener writer David Larsen
Annie Goldson’s documentary examines the story of Kim Dotcom, the German-born hacker turned internet mogul who is holed up in a New Zealand mansion fighting extradition to the United States. In the US he’s wanted for alleged infringement of copyright laws committed by Megaupload, the online storage hub he founded. Goldson mines archive material (including the NZ police raid of his mansion) and interviews, to explore intellectual property, privacy, profit and piracy in the digital age. The film won rave reviews after its world premiere at multimedia festival South by Southwest.
He Toki Huna sets out to provide an independent overview of New Zealand’s involvement in Afghanistan (the longest overseas war in which NZ has played a role). The documentary follows journalist Jon Stephenson conducting eyewitness interviews in Afghanistan, and poses provoking questions about Kiwi troops' involvement in a conflict that co-director Kay Ellmers calls an “ill-defined war against an unclear” enemy. Ellmers and Annie Goldson made the Moa Award-winning film for Māori Television, alongside an extended cut which played at NZ’s 2013 Film Festival.
The 1978 death of Kerry Hamill in Khmer Rouge prison S21 provided a tangible link for New Zealanders to a genocide that claimed two million Cambodian lives. Thirty years later, this acclaimed documentary by filmmaker Annie Goldson follows Hamill’s brother Rob — an Olympian and Trans-Atlantic rowing champion — as he attends the war crimes trial of Comrade Duch, one of the architects of the slaughter. Hamill is there to make a victim impact statement, but also to understand how his brother died, confront the man responsible, and discover if forgiveness is possible.
Climate change is not just a theory for the people of Takuu, a tiny atoll in Papua New Guinea. Floods and climate-related impacts have forced Teloo, Endar and Satty to consider whether they should stay on their slowly-drowning home, or accept a proposal that would see them move to Bougainville, away from the sea. In this award-winning documentary they also learn more about the impact of climate change from two visiting scientists (an oceanographer and geomorphologist). Director Briar March’s second feature-length doco travelled to over 50 film festivals.
On 1 July 2001, John Scott and his partner Greg Scrivener were killed in their home in Suva. John, from an old European-Fiji family was the Director-General of the Fiji Red Cross and worked as a go-between in the hostage crisis during the 2000 coup. The documentary traces the colourful story of the Scott family, the political crises that have marked Fiji's recent history, the killings and their aftermath, and the complex mix of tribal authority and democracy. It won best documentary and camera gongs at 2008 Qantas Film and Television Awards.
Near the end of his life, the renowned English composer Elgar composed some of the greatest music of his career. This film examines the idea that Elgar's deeply emotional Cello Concerto in Em was provoked by memories of his first great love, Helen Weaver, who emigrated to New Zealand after their relationship ended. After receiving word that Weaver's son had been killed fighting in France, Elgar was moved to write a war requiem. The film mixes interviews, dramatisations, and a performance of the concerto by cellist Lynn Harrell and the NZSO.
This film tells the story of a group of Afghani refugees rescued from the high seas off Australia by the freighter, Tampa. It follows the fate of several boys who were given the chance of a fresh start in New Zealand. Deftly blending observational sequences and historical footage, Pacific Solution examines the socio-politicial context of a growing worldwide refugee crisis. It was filmed in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Australia, Nauru and New Zealand. Pacific Solution was screened by TVNZ and at festivals internationally.
Georgina Beyer was the first transgendered person in the world to be elected to national office. This internationally lauded documentary, by Annie Goldson and Peter Wells, tells the story of Beyer's extraordinary and inspiring journey from sex worker to Member of Parliament for rural Wairarapa and handshakes with the Queen. Born George Bertrand, Georgina grew up on a Taranaki farm, before spreading her wings on the Auckland cabaret circuit. Subsequent events led her to the town of Carterton, where she became involved in local body, and then national, politics.
After her son Kamal Bamadhaj — a New Zealand Malaysian student of history and Indonesian politics — was shot dead in the Dili massacre in East Timor in 1991, New Zealander Helen Todd decided to pursue a law suit against the Indonesian general she believed was responsible. Her personal and political campaign for justice would eventually span five continents and four years. The documentary from director Annie Goldson (An Island Calling) won acclaim, and a number of awards at international film festivals.
Directed by Annie Goldson (Brother Number One), this 1995 TV documentary explores the story of Cecil Holmes, who won Cold War notoriety in 1948 when he was smeared as a communist agent, while working as a director for the National Film Unit. This excerpt — the opening 10 minutes — revisits the infamous snatching of Holmes' satchel outside Parliament, his Palmerston North upbringing, war service, and the founding of the Government's National Film Unit. There are excerpts from a 1980 interview where Holmes describes his inspirations (including UK film Night Mail).