My Year with Helen

Posted Sunday 02 Jul 2017


Gaylene Preston directed, co-produced and co-photographed, and Catherine Madigan co-produced, this fascinating portrait of Helen Clark on a mission - and a laconic account of the exasperating circumstances wherein she hit the glass ceiling at the United Nations.

After its gala screening at the Sydney Film Festival, get along to see it at Auckland's glorious Civic, and at its regional screenings in four centres.

My Year with Helen
2017, 93 minutes
Festivals: Sydney 2017
Director/co-producer: Gaylene Preston
Co-producer: Catherine Madigan

Early in the film the former PM spells out her primary professional objective: find herself a job where she can "do a power of good". Keen to discover what that might look like in 2015, Preston followed Clark to Botswana in her third top-ranked position at the UN, heading up the UN Development Programme. She didn't know that in the year that followed Clark would also be campaigning for the position of secretary general.

The election of the UN's top official had once been so secretive that not even the candidates knew they were in the running. For 2016 the UN announced that the contest would be much more transparent. Considering the organisation's remits around gender equality, the time felt ripe for the first female secretary general in its 80-year history. Clark was one of seven women to announce their candidacy.

The media love a horse race, and politicians, diplomats and feminist organisations were immediately abuzz with speculation and opinion. Shuttling between a forthright Clark and official UN briefings which reveal nothing, Preston singles out a wealth of clued-up commentators and shrewdly observes multiple angles to the story. Nothing anyone has to say is intended to convince you that this was a transparent process, or even, in fact, a race.

Clark is dignified and resilient in the face of loss. She can always congratulate herself on having had Preston on hand to mine her disappointing experience and discover in it the fuel for future fire.


Next Up...

New Zealand's Best 2017

Posted Sunday 02 Jul 2017

WIFTers have written, directed, produced and acted in three of the six finalists in the New Zealand's Best 2017 competition - woohoo!

Book your tickets to see the films, then cast your vote for your favourite (WIFTer film, cough cough) to win the Audience Choice Award. Members are highlighted in bold. Comments in italics are from Gaylene Preston, who chose the six finalists.



Do No Harm (above)
2017, 12 minutes
Festivals: Sundance 2017
Director/screenplay: Roseanne Liang 
Producer: Hamish Mortland 
With: Marsha Yuan, Jacob Tomuri
A doctor abides by her Hippocratic oath even when violent gangsters interrupt her surgery. Female power rendered extreme by a director successfully stretching her muscles in every direction.


The Dregs (above)
2017, 15 minutes
Director/screenplay: Matt Campbell
Executive producer: Leela Menon
Producer: Annabel Carr
With: Eamonn Tee, Shayla Crombie, Florence Noble
A teenage misfit starts a band only to lose control to the school bully. I cannot believe this director was not born in 1975! A tribute to high school bands, the Gordons and what elevation from dorkhood a guitar can accomplish.


Laundry (above)
2017, 11 minutes
Director/screenplay: Becs Arahanga 
Producers: Julian Arahanga, Kath Akuhuata-Brown 
With: Aidee Walker, Jarod Rawiri
A frustrated mum struggles to find intimacy while raising a young family. A real woman's sexy adventure elevating domestic life and putting the poems of Hone Tuwhare in a place not usually found!