This episode from the TV3 series of mini World War I stories looks at Harold Gillies and Henry Pickerill, two pioneers of plastic surgery who grafted “new hope onto despair” for soldiers whose faces had been demolished by war. The short details new methods the pair developed at Sidcup in England, a specialist unit set up by Gilles. It conveys the bravery of the surgeons and nurses in the face of appalling injuries, as well as the courage and “unquenchable optimism” of the patients. Presented by Hilary Barry, Great War Stories screened during 3 News.
This self-funded feature follows the travails of Lexi (Request Ahomana), a young Pacific Island Kiwi cleaning for a bitter elderly woman, and struggling to find her identity in the town of Oamaru. A meeting with a young man (Dean Hanns) provides her with a prospective ride out of town — but obstacles on that road include the young man's past, the gambling addict sister she shares a flat with, and finding the courage to chase her dreams. Lexi marks the first feature film written, directed and produced by Wayne Turner. In the excerpt, Lexis argues with her sister.
Chris Huriwai and Sam La Hood are both world champions in street unicycling. What they do takes courage and confidence — and not just the unicycling. As vegan animal rights activists, they regularly face those who disagree with them, as they form a “cube of truth” with other activists, standing in black, and playing video of animal rights abuses on laptop screens. The pair take the time to explain why they protest — Huriwai’s rural background and their connection to tikanga Māori are key factors — and note that while some take offence, the majority are welcoming.
Tusi Tamasese’s first feature tells the story of a taro farmer (played by real life farmer Fa’afiaula Sagote) who finds the courage to stand tall for his family and culture, and stand up to sceptical villagers. Variety called it “compelling drama”. Though previous films (e.g. Flying Fox on a Freedom Tree) had told stories inspired by Samoan writers, The Orator was the first feature written and directed by a Samoan — and the first filmed in Samoan. When it debuted in September 2011 at the prestigious Venice Film Festival, it won a special jury mention in the Orizzonti (New Horizons) section.
This fondly-remembered Pictorial Parade plunges down the famously steep grade of the Denniston Incline. The cable railway was the key means of transporting ‘black gold’ from the isolated Denniston Plateau to Westport. The engineering marvel fell 518 metres over just 1670 metres. It brought down 13 million tonnes of coal and many hardy families, despite notorious brake failures. This film was made just before the mine and railway ceased operating, as “old king coal” was supplanted by oil. Director Hugh Macdonald writes about making it, and a companion film, here.
Set in the East Coast town of Whāngārā, Whale Rider tells the tale of a young Māori girl, Pai (Keisha Castle-Hughes), who challenges tradition and embraces the past in order to find the strength to lead her people forward. Directed and written by Niki Caro, the film is based on Witi Ihimaera's novel The Whale Rider. Coupling a specific sense of place and culture with a universal coming-of-age story, Whale Rider became one of the most successful and acclaimed New Zealand films released internationally. It also won audience choice awards at the Sundance and Toronto Film Festivals.