Quake drama carries health warnings

MICHELLE DUFF
Last updated 09:48 29/06/2014
hope and wire

TRAUMATIC TIMES: Health specialists say scenes from Hope and Wire are sure to induce anger from some of those who were affected by the Canterbury quakes.

Gaylene Preston
Simon Clark
STORYTELLER: Filmmaker Gaylene Preston's latest production, Hope and Wire, is a television mini-series that portrays Christchurch's earthquake experience through a broad range of characters.

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A new drama series set during the 2011 Christchurch earthquake comes with a health warning while broadcaster TV3 is fielding complaints before it even goes to air.

But defenders of filmmaker Gaylene Preston's $5 million taxpayer- funded mini-series Hope and Wire say the story is told with sensitivity, and they hope it will be a wake-up call for the rest of the country.

TV3 owner Mediaworks has received complaints in the lead-up to the series premiere on Thursday night, as some Cantabrians voice upset at "shocking" promotional advertisements.

And it has sparked a health warning, with the Canterbury District Health Board advising Cantabrians to seriously consider whether they watch it.

"We know people are at a lot of different stages of coming to terms with what happened . . . it is likely to raise issues for some people.

"We are a city experiencing grief, and there's a lot of anger related to grief so there will be some expressed," public health specialist Lucy D'Aeth said.

"It is still very shocking for Canterbury people to see shaking, or to see earthquakes."

For others it could be cathartic.

"I think people should have their tissues handy because I cried a lot, but I don't know if that is necessarily a bad thing, because I laughed as well. For me it portrayed the diversity and the humanity of the city, and what we've been through."

The health board contacted TV3 with concerns about simulated quake footage in initial advertisements for the series. The board asked for character-driven action to be more of a focus in the ad, and that the Canterbury support line number be included.

TV3 head of commissioning and external production Sue Woodfield said: "We value all the feedback, and there's been amazing support for the series, particularly from Christchurch, where it was filmed.

"We also understand it's upsetting for some to be reminded of these events and we are very conscious of the impact of the programme - many TV3 staff and our friends and families were in Christchurch during the quakes."

NZ on Air chief executive Jane Wrightson said while she respected some Cantabrians would not want to watch, the drama was a compelling reminder for the rest of the country about what had happened.

"What we're interested in is telling stories for other New Zealanders about aspects of [our] history and culture that are important. And there isn't a more important story than the Christchurch story in this decade, in my view."

Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel said she thought Preston had treated the subject matter with empathy.

"There is still a lot of trauma in the city but I thought it dealt with an incredibly complex series of issues in a very real way.

"It didn't glorify anything and it didn't exaggerate anything either."

She hoped it would strike a chord with those outside of Christchurch.

"I think what most of New Zealand doesn't realise is that while the living environments have improved for some parts of the city, others are actually still experiencing challenging conditions."

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Reactions on social media were mixed.

"I really hope this is done thoughtfully as we here are still trying to recover emotionally from the trauma," said one person. "Wow talk about insensitive. A drama about the Christchurch earthquakes . . . very bad taste in my opinion," said another.

Mel Ross who wrote on Facebook: "Please watch it before you make judgement on if you like it or not. The Hope and Wire team have done an amazing job on this series. It is not insensitive or bad taste, it is very real and emotional."

- Sunday Star Times

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