Preston*Laing’s film adaptation of activist Sonja Davies’ autobiography beautifully captures the heart-breaking social and societal conditions of mid-century women in New Zealand.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2023
We are delighted to present a new restoration of Gaylene Preston’s brilliant long-form biographical drama, originally presented in the 1993 festivals. We could not improve on Bill Gosden’s original programme note, so here it is:
In a breathtakingly sustained act of imaginative identification, Gaylene Preston has created a tribute to her mother’s generation of New Zealand women. Her superb adaptation of Sonja Davies’ autobiography will ring resoundingly true—and disconcertingly truthful—for many New Zealanders. Much of its sharp eye for social history belongs to the women at its centre.
An illegitimate child, the Davies of Preston’s film grew up with the middle class, but not of it, a watchful outsider looking for a safe haven. In Genevieve Picot’s lucid and moving performance, the young Davies’ pride in her own self-worth is never in doubt, but just how she is to live up to it is much less clear. Her outspoken recognition of the pressures wartime society places on women not only irritates her peers: it also fails to exempt her from the harsh experiences undergone by so many others. We see her fall in love with a GI, farewell him to war and disappear up country to bear an illegitimate child. We also witness the tuberculosis contracted while nursing, which almost killed her.
Davies’ consequent journey towards political activism gives the film its direction, but it’s the epic of common experience she embodies that gives it such substance. Audiences may be startled into delighted acquaintance with a thousand nuances of an earlier New Zealand, but there’s nothing conservative or nostalgic about this view of our past. A long time in the gestation, this is a richly developed, highly detailed and beautifully realised piece of work. — Bill Gosden
"I'm really looking forward to bringing the new and completely rejuvenated Bread and Roses to the Festival where it began. Thanks to support from the Heritage trust, the sound and picture are now remastered from the 16mm original at Park Rd Post and have had the Peter Jackson Beatles film treatment supervised by the director. It has taken weeks and now, the way the filmmakers intended in the first place, we're ready to face another century." — Gaylene Preston
He mihi ki a koutou katoa kua whetūrangitia!
Declaration of Interest:
The staff and trustees of NZIFF congratulate NZFFT Board Member Robin Laing as Producer of Bread and Roses
This 30th anniversary restoration has been made possible by the Aotearoa/New Zealand Film Heritage Trust, in partnership with Ngā Taonga Sound and Vision and Park Road Post Production.
Note: Film screenings will include an intermission