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1 filmmaker, 3 premieres on TV over next six weeks

Three diverse and compelling new documentaries by New Zealand filmmaker Anna Cottrell are about to screen on free-to-air television in New Zealand.

It’s been a busy year for Anna, who is wrapping up the latest AC Productions’ documentary, The Kiwi, the Knight & the Qashqai , scheduled to screen on Choice TV on Monday, 26 November at 8.30pm.

“The Kiwi in the title is Anna Williams, an Oriental rug repairer based in Wellington. The Knight is Sir David Attenborough, and the Qashqai are a tribe of nomads in Iran renowned for their tribal rug-weaving prowess,” says Cottrell.

The film follows Williams on two of her seven journeys to the Qashqai.

“Filming in Iran was not straightforward,” says Cottrell. “On the second trip we took Auckland director of photography Mairi Gunn. Filming under the hijab in 40 degrees of heat was challenging.”

As well as being welcomed into the homes and tents of the Qashqai, the two Annas were invited into the home of esteemed broadcaster Sir David Attenborough to interview him about his 1970s documentary on the Qashqai.

“It was a great opportunity to discuss the changes in the Qashqai lifestyle over the past 40 years. Anna Williams’ interview with Sir David is insightful and charming. It was a privilege for us all to meet such an extraordinary broadcaster.“

The other two documentaries, one a series, focus on the impact of disaster and of war on those involved.

Wahine 50 Years On - Survival Stories is based on new interviews with Wahine passengers, crew, and rescuers.

“It reveals the resilience and fortitude of those involved in an era when counseling and victim support was not on offer,” says Cottrell. “All got on with their lives trying to put aside the horrors of what they endured.”

The film, commissioned by the Wahine 50 Charitable Trust to commemorate the 50th anniversary of New Zealand’s worst modern maritime disaster, screens on Monday, 29 October, 8.30pm on Choice TV.

The third is a series – Māori and Pacific Great War StoriesArmistice Day 100 Years On - that will screen on Māori Television at 7pm on Armistice Day, 11 November (the day in 1918 that the Allies and Germany signed the armistice at Compiègne, France, agreeing to end the First World War).

It is a compilation of mini-documentaries – Cottrell calls them haiku stories – about individuals caught up in the tragic events of the First World War.

It focuses on individuals including Te Puea Herangi, a relative of the Māori king, and Maui Pomare, MP for Western Māori, and their differing views on Māori involvement in the war; Falaoa, who with 150 other Niueans, was uplifted from their island and sent to Europe as a labourer; Rikihana Carkeek, part of the original Native Contingent, who survived the First World War, returned to Otaki, was father to 11 children and became an interpreter for the Māori Land Court; and the heartrending story of Victor Spencer, who survived Gallipoli, on the Western front suffered from post-traumatic stress, and was executed for desertion.

The stories are based on letters, diaries, photos, archive film and stories handed down the generations.

“It was such a privilege meeting the families who had looked after these treasured belongings of their ancestors for 100 years,” says Anna, who with the editor Peter Metcalf compiled the series from Great War Stories.

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