Never Look Away 2024

Directed by Lucy Lawless Māhutonga

Lucy Lawless makes her directorial debut with a raucous documentary exploring the life of another warrior princess — fierce and fearless Kiwi war photojournalist Margaret Moth.

Aotearoa New Zealand In English and French with English subtitles
86 minutes Colour / DCP
E
documentary film exempt from NZ Classification labelling requirements

Director

Producers

Matthew Metcalfe
,
Tom Blackwell
,
Lucy Lawless

Cinematographers

Darryl Ward
,
Richard Bluck

Editors

Whetham Allpress, Tim Woodhouse

Music

Jason Smith, Karl Sölve Steven

With

Margaret Moth, Christiane Amanpour, Joe Duran, Sausan Ghosheh, Tom Johnson, Stefano Kotsonis, Jeff Russi

Festivals

Sundance, SXSW, Hot Docs 2024

Elsewhere

Presented in association with

Newstalk ZB

Margaret Moth worked as a CNN video journalist in the 1990s, known in the industry for her willingness — or eagerness, even — to put her safety on the line in order to get amongst terrifying military action. Never Look Away features friends, lovers, and colleagues sharing their admiration, wonder, and fear over Moth’s unyielding determination in many of the world’s most dangerous warzones. 

It’s not difficult to see what attracted Xena star Lucy Lawless to her subject: Moth blazed a trail as TVNZ’s first woman camera operator before becoming a respected visual correspondent in hotspots like Iraq, Georgia, Palestine, and Rwanda. One look at the photographer, with her Siouxsie Sioux-like black hair, dark makeup, and smirking swagger, and it’s clear she belonged as much in front of the lens as behind.

Fellow war reporters, including Christiane Amanpour, make clear the huge impact Moth had as a photojournalist, a woman in a male-dominated field, shining a light on humanity’s darkest moments – some of which the documentary brings to life as stylish digital dioramas built by Wētā Workshop. Despite this, she remains a largely unsung hero in her home country — a situation this energetic film seeks to remedy. 

But the documentary doesn’t simply canonise the prickly photographer, paying just as much attention to Moth’s complicated character as her achievements. Her personal life contained no less adrenaline than the warzone workdays: a flurry of LSD, punk clubs, open relationships, and risky behaviour. Darker notes include childhood abuse, PTSD, and a war wound that would change her life profoundly. 

As Moth boldly thrust the grimy realities of war onto the TV screen, so does Lawless’s documentary present the details of her life and legacy in all their tangled complexity. More powerful still are the undeniable connections between the travesties she risked her life to document, and today’s condemnable conflicts which the world shamefully manages to look away from. — Adrian Hatwell