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Film on New Zealand in Afghanistan nominated for top award

Annie Goldson’s film nominated for top award by Screen Writers Guild

Professor Annie Goldson has received further success for her latest film He Toki Huna: New Zealand in Afghanistan.

The University of Auckland lecturer in Film, Television and Media Studies is about to have her documentary screen nationwide in the New Zealand International Film Festival. Now He Toki Huna (The Hidden Adze) has been nominated a finalist in the Best Factual Script category for the New Zealand Writers Guild 2013 Script Writer Awards New Zealand (SWANZ).

He Toki Huna explores New Zealand's involvement in Afghanistan – the longest ever war in which this country has played a part. Following non-embedded journalist Jon Stephenson into Afghanistan, the film discusses the role and legacy New Zealand troops have played in that beautiful war-torn country while providing an historical context to our involvement.

Recent revelations that Stephenson was spied upon by US agencies while he was working in Afghanistan and that as an investigative journalist, he was called a "subversive" by our own Defense Force gives the film a currency, begging the question of what the role of the media is within a democracy. He also recently sued the New Zealand Defence Force for defamation after they accused him of making up stories. The case resulted in a hung jury.

The film includes a range of other Kiwi and Afghan voices, including academics, soldiers, Defence Force personnel, historians and ordinary Afghans. The film asks why we became involved in the war, why we stayed so long, and why we, the public, have learned so little.

He Toki Huna thus challenges the rosy picture presented by most media reports, which have side-stepped the realities of combat and death in a conflict that has dragged on for 10 years.

Originally commissioned by Maori Television and funded by New Zealand on Air, with support from the University of Auckland, an initial version screening on the eve of Anzac Day. The film festival version has been significantly expanded and re-edited to include additional footage and analysis.

Dr Goldson is an award winning director and producer whose works include Brother Number One and An Island Calling. Dr Goldson and co-director/producer Kay Ellmers (Canvassing the Treaty, Polynesian Panthers) say the film translates well on the big screen and being part of the film festival will generate more debate about what is a very important issue to all New Zealanders.

Dr Goldson says the documentary sheds light on our recent past and holds valuable lessons for the future.

"By joining in the war post-911, have we been 'good global citizens' fighting the good fight against international terrorism? Or did New Zealand enter into an alliance that has meant our soldiers have been actively and militarily involved in a complex conflict that most of us know little about and have not agreed to participate in?”

Co-director/producer Kay Ellmers said the film does pose some uncomfortable questions about the political motivations that sent young New Zealand men and women to battle in a very ill-defined war “against an unclear and shifting ‘enemy’, supporting a new Afghan ‘state’ with little support amongst its own population.

He Toki Huna: New Zealand in Afghanistan will screen at SKYCITY in Auckland on Sunday 4 August; at Soundings Theatre, Te Papa on Friday 9 and Saturday 10 August; at Northlands in Christchurch on Sunday 18 August and in Dunedin at the Rialto on Wednesday 21 August and Thursday 22 August.

Tickets and details are available at

The SWANZ will be presented at a ceremony at The Comedy Classic Bar, Queen Street, Auckland on Thursday 8 August 2013.


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