Open Door is a community-based television series that allows groups or individuals to apply to make a documentary about an issue that concerns them. This programme is about the charitable trust Sweet Louise, established in 2005 to provide practical and psychological support to New Zealand women with secondary breast cancer. Sweet Louise was set up by the family of Auckland woman Louise Perkins, who died at the age of 39 after battling breast cancer for 10 years.
The first episode of Jam TV’s 2013 series on inspirational Kiwis follows Helena McAlpine’s journey as she deals with terminal breast cancer. The ebullient spirit of the ex-C4 presenter permeates the episode, as she talks about her mental health struggles, her bucket list, living in the fast line, fishing with mate Clarke Gayford, leaving her daughter without a mum, advocacy work for cancer awareness campaigns, and the ‘McAlpine theory on life’ — choose to be happy. “I really don’t see myself as a sack of sadness”. McAlpine died on 23 September 2015.
After being diagnosed with breast cancer, TV presenter Helena McAlpine enlisted a chorus of NZ's most recognisable music voices to cover Chris Knox’s classic love song. McAlpine was determined that mothers, daughters, wives and friends get the message that the “best form of defence against breast cancer is to catch it early”. Directed by Toa Fraser, the video for the NZ Breast Cancer Foundation awareness campaign shows a run of well-known Kiwis holding pictures of women they love, in front of a backdrop of Derek Henderson photos. McAlpine died on 23 September 2015.
Part concept film, part biopic, part historical record and part comedy, Leanne Pooley’s documentary was made to mark the Topp Twins' 50th birthday. New Zealand's favourite comedic, country singing, dancing and yodeling lesbian twin sisters tell their personal story: from their 'coming out' to Jools' brush with breast cancer. The film features archive material, home movies and interviews with the Topps' alter egos. Alongside local box office success and dozens of international awards, Girls won the People’s Choice award for favourite documentary at the 2009 Toronto Film Festival.
In 2012 TV presenter Helena McAlpine enlisted a chorus of NZ music’s finest voices to cover Chris Knox’s classic love song, as part of a campaign to raise breast cancer awareness. They included Alisa Xayalith, Brooke Fraser, Julia Deans, Martin Phillipps, The Topp Twins, Don McGlashan, Warren Maxwell, Hinewehi Mohi, Princess Chelsea, Jon Toogood and Hollie Smith. The track was arranged and produced by Sean Donnelly (SJD). McAlpine was diagnosed with the disease in 2008, and died on 23 September 2015.
This 16 episode, 30 minute series from Jam TV (This Town, Intrepid Journeys) gave “courageous, honest, heroic and inspirational Kiwis a chance to tell their tale.” Subjects ranged from broadcaster Mark Staufer to Christchurch Student Volunteer Army founder Sam Johnson, Gisborne mayor Meng Foon, and Northland doctor Lance O’Sullivan. The first episode explored irrepressible former C4 presenter Helena McAlpine’s experiences with terminal breast cancer. Listener critic Diana Wichtel praised the TVNZ show as “an increasingly vital corrective to the rest of prime time".
Australian feminist author Germaine Greer tells Kim Hill that “it’s time to get angry again”. She’s angry that female health treatments for breast and cervical cancers are forms of control that are actually out of control. Greer opines that women are over-medicated, in fear of their bodies and deeply insecure about the way they look. She talks about the grassroots feminist revolution that never happened, and the totemic feminist text – her “lucky book” – The Female Eunuch.
National treasures The Topp Twins (aka twins Lynda and Jools Topp) have performed as a country-music singing and yodelling comedy duo for more than 25 years. In the late 90s they created their own TV series which ran for three seasons and showcased their iconic cast of Kiwi characters, including Camp Mother, the Bowling Ladies and cross-dressing Ken and Ken. The series, travelling from a Highland Games to a Tauranga triathlon, won the twins - out-and-proud lesbians - several gongs at the NZ Film and TV Awards and screened on the ABC and Foxtel in Australia.
Brit-born Helena McAlpine moved to NZ in her 20s. Soon she was DJing on The Edge and being headhunted by C4, where she became one of the music channel’s main hosts. After discovering she had breast cancer, she got busy on a large bucket list, including cameoing on Shortland Street, campaigning for the Breast Cancer Foundation, and flying a plane once again. McAlpine died on 23 September 2015.
Lynda Topp is half of the Topp Twins, the singing sisters who have plucked their way across the country and the globe with their unique brand of comedy and country music. 2009 Topp Twins documentary Untouchable Girls is the most successful local doco released to date in local cinemas. In 2014 the twins presented TV series Topp Country, which became the third most watched local programme of the year.