Sylvia Ashton-Warner shows her prickly side in a brief interview at the start of this Weekend item, which backgrounds a movie based on the pioneering educationalist's life. Reporter Ainslie Talbot arrives in small-town Pipiriki on the Whanganui, to visit one of the most expensive sets then built for a local film. He interviews Sylvia's director Michael Firth, who spent seven years getting the project off the ground, and talks to UK actor Eleanor David, who plays Sylvia. The film would go on to win rave reviews overseas, and praise for David's "intelligent, compassionate performance".
Visionary educationalist and novelist Sylvia Ashton-Warner is interviewed by leading educationalist of the day, Jack Shallcrass, in this documentary about her life and work. From her home in Tauranga the film explores her educational philosophies (“organic teaching” and her “drive to diffuse the impulse to kill”) and her “divided life” between woman and artist, as she plays piano and interacts with children. It is the only interview she ever made for television, and was the first of the Three New Zealanders documentaries made to mark International Women's Year.
Michael Firth's feature film tells the story of writer and educator Sylvia Ashton-Warner, as she forges her visionary philosophy of “organic teaching” while teaching Māori children at an isolated school in the 1940s. Taking in romance and struggle, the drama was widely praised: Village Voice named it one of the 10 best films of 1985, while critic Andrew Sarris found “the intensely interacting performances" of the four principals "nothing short of breathtaking”. The film is based on Ashton-Warner’s books Teacher and I Passed This Way. Supporting actor Mary Regan won a GOFTA award.