Screened as part of NZIFF 2017
When painter Knutte Wester was a child the stories his grandmother told him were grim tales of her own childhood. He was transfixed. Born out of wedlock in 1909, Hervor was spurned along with her mother by their ‘slave-class’ rural family. Passed in and out of her mother’s care through a succession of foster homes, she quickly learned how a society uses its designated outsiders. She characterises the venality of her persecutors and her own dogged instinct for survival with the dramatic acuity of a Dickens.
What makes her tale doubly exceptional is the grandson’s re-telling – and the gradual revelation of the remarkable woman this imperilled child became. Drawing from his vivid recollections, Wester illustrates her memoir with his own haunting watercolour paintings, and with startlingly pristine period footage. No other work in this year’s NZIFF makes such powerful use of archival film to conjure the actuality of lives long passed. The immanence of the past in the present feels intuitive in Wester’s vision, as his film seamlessly incorporates a contemporary world where the rights of marginalised children are no more recognised than they were in Sweden a century ago.