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Nationwide Release Of Documentary On Community Response To NZ’s Largest Environmental Disaster

Following a well-received premiere with 450 people packing out two Tauranga cinemas, the NZ feature film ‘Taking Back Our Beach’ is being released this week in cinemas nationwide.

Praise has been universal for the powerful documentary that showcases the Bay of Plenty community’s response to the 2011 grounding of the MV Rena, and the subsequent oil and debris disaster.

The film, which opened on October 5, the 12th anniversary of the Rena grounding, is being embraced by Tauranga locals, with United Cinemas Bayfair increasing screenings to five a day this week in order to meet audience demand. Alongside the general public, over 1000 school students will also see it, and multiple community groups are using the film as a fundraising event.

When the MV Rena grounded on Ōtāiti (Astrolabe reef) on October 5, 2011, it wasn’t just the iconic New Zealand coastline and wildlife that were threatened by the ensuing black waves of oil and debris, but also a lifestyle treasured by its residents. There are many unfolding layers to this story and producer Rosalie Liddle Crawford says “this film offers closure to an event that affected over 8000 volunteers and countless more in the wider community”.

Although regionally focused, the film explores universal themes that affect all communities, as people grapple with bureaucracy, and the power of community amidst disaster events. Parallels can easily be drawn with the impact of Cyclone Gabrielle and flooding this year in Auckland and Hawkes Bay.

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When disaster strikes, a community rises! From a septuagenarian widow chasing an oiled penguin around her living room, to a six-metre long barbecue feeding volunteers for free, to youth defying authorities by impersonating army personnel to sneak onto the beach to clean up oil, the documentary is woven together from interviews with 33 local people (iwi, retirees, volunteers, wildlife leaders, marine experts, small business owners and community leaders).

The film captures the shock, anger and grief driven into the heart of the local community, but also the humour, purpose and overwhelming positivity when people join together with a common goal. When asked to sum up the film in three words director Anton Steel said “Chaos, Unity, and Forgiveness”.

“Taking Back Our Beach” is currently screening in Tauranga, Auckland, Rotorua, Te Awamutu, and Russell and further screenings will begin this week in Christchurch, Wellington, Waiheke, Kaikoura, Napier, Opotiki, Whakatane and Hokitika. Later in October and early November the film will screen in New Plymouth, Takaka, Whitianga, Raglan, Matakana, Timaru, Gisborne, Nelson, and Greymouth. The film was also included in the Doc Edge Festival in May, 2023.

Details for screenings are available on the website www.takingbackourbeach.com

Trailer: www.vimeo.com/antonsteel/takingbackourbeachtrailer

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