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Sedition uncovers hidden stores

Sedition uncovers hidden stores

The lives of pacifists and conscientious objectors who opposed New Zealand’s involvement in World War II and had their views suppressed by the State are the subject of a major documentary written, directed and produced by a Victoria University researcher.

Sedition: The Suppression of Dissent in World War II New Zealand will have its world premiere in the Telecom New Zealand International Film Festivals later this month. The documentary was written, produced and directed by Dr Russell Campbell of Victoria’s School of English, Film, Theatre & Media Studies and was supported by a grant from the University Research Fund.

Dr Campbell says the documentary casts a new light on the activities of New Zealand’s Government during the War.

“New Zealanders view their country as one of the freest in the world, where people can hold contrary opinions and express them. But that wasn’t the case during World War II. The then Labour Government – many of whose senior members were ironically charged with sedition for opposing conscription in the First World War – went to considerable lengths to silence those who were deemed to have ‘seditious’ views in the Second World War.

“This film allows many pacifists and conscientious objectors, who were incarcerated in the prisons and detention camps for their anti-war views, to tell their stories while the actions of the Government in suppressing dissent are analysed by leading historians and political scientists. The final cut is a moving and sobering account of the lengths the State went to, in order to silence all those who spoke up against the war and who refused to fight.”

Bill Gosden, Director of the Telecom New Zealand International Film Festivals, welcomed the inclusion of Sedition in the programme.

"The Festival has a long connection with Russell's work and we're delighted to be premiering his new film. Honouring those who labour outside the mainstream is very much our purpose, and Sedition does exactly that."

As well as Dr Campbell’s involvement, the film has many other strong links to Victoria with several graduates and current and former staff playing significant roles. Also involved in the research project associated with the film was Giacomo Lichtner, Lecturer in the University’s History Programme, while camera, sound and editing (in collaboration) were by Shane Loader, a Victoria graduate and former student of Dr Campbell.

Composer David Long, well-known for his work with The Mutton Birds, has a first-class honours degree in history from Victoria while his brother, Martin Long, now a documentary filmmaker in Britain, filmed many of the original 1990 interviews incorporated in the film, and is also a Victoria alumnus. The narrator is award-winning actor and Victoria alumna Carmel McGlone, and the film includes a dramatic monologue by RAK Mason, performed by Felix Preval, who graduated with first class honours in film from the University last year and won the Prize for Film Studies.

Those interviewed in the documentary include historian Rachel Barrowman, a Victoria alumna whose work includes a history of the University, and Victoria staff members Dr John Barrington (Education), Dr Rod Alley (Political Science), and the late Professor John McCreary (Social Work).

The documentary will premiere in Auckland at the Academy Cinema on Saturday July 23, with a further screening the following day. It will be shown in Wellington at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa on Saturday July 30.

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