Beck Eleven: Legendary journalists on film and me

Some journalists get famous for their front line derring-do. Beck is better known for her bovine antics at the A&P Show.
Kirk Hargreaves

Some journalists get famous for their front line derring-do. Beck is better known for her bovine antics at the A&P Show.

OPINION: This week I had the pleasure of spending time with Kate Adie, a British journalist whose most high-profile role was chief news correspondent for the BBC. She is 71 now, still working and carrying an enviable knowledge about world affairs.

She's been glanced by a bullet, reported from war zones worldwide, on the Lockerbie bombing, Tiananmen Square, Rwandan genocide – you name it, Adie has been in the thick of it, microphone in hand.

She was in town to promote the film 6 Days, which is screening as part of the New Zealand International Film Festival in Christchurch. The film recreates the Iranian Embassy siege in London where, as a junior reporter in 1980, Adie was on duty and reporting live as SAS troops stormed the building.

 

It's all rather dramatic and, according to Adie, spot-on with its recreation. Not that the movie is exactly about her, but as an eyewitness on the front line her role (played in the film by Abbie Cornish) certainly goes to conveying the atmosphere and tension during the hostage crisis.

READ MORE: Beck Eleven: Not your bog standard column
 

You spend time with someone like that and you begin to examine your own small life.

BBC reporter Kate Adie, who was played by actor Abbie Cornish in the movie 6 Days.
NZ International Film Festival

BBC reporter Kate Adie, who was played by actor Abbie Cornish in the movie 6 Days.

I wonder which of my past reporting glories will be written for the silver screen. It would be gripping viewing, I assure you and very likely played by some gorgeous young thing with fire in her belly and passion in her heart. I can see it now.

Scene opens in Hagley Park. A circus is setting up and a fresh, nubile reporter is being given tips on how to walk a tightrope. She cautiously takes four steps before gravity exacts its ultimate endgame. Not beaten by failure, the young Beck Eleven climbs a new ladder. This ladder is definitely not a metaphor for her career. Her little hands grip a trapeze bar. She takes a deep breath and pushes off the platform. A moment of hope and promise crosses her eyes before it changes to a grimace of pain as her right shoulder is wrenched and she is stifling tears on a giant inflatable mattress.

Cut to a montage of note-taking and squinting as she tries to understand her own shorthand.

 

Suddenly she is mid-career. A newsroom romance sparks up. The newsroom romance is over. The editor buys a large indoor tree which is placed in the corridor to prevent these reporters having to catch the sight of each other.

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Cut to Cup & Show Week. The reporter is gamely shearing sheep, bouncing on the Aerojump, throwing gumboots and listening to the Topp Twins.

She and a photographer visit the carnival section whereupon the photographer has the genius idea to sit on a belly-spinning ride to capture the thrill of it all. The ride stops. The photographer vomits. The reporter laughs and strides back to the media tent where karma performs a cameo role and a Mackintoshs lolly pulls a filling from her tooth.

Some journalists make it big. Others get big air.
Kirk Hargreaves

Some journalists make it big. Others get big air.

"Up yours, Harrogate!" she yells at the wrapper. A warm nor'wester whips through the crowds. Everyone has a headache. It's been a long week and half the population of Canterbury is stifling tears.

Summer continues. Scene opens in Northlands Mall. It's Christmas and our intrepid reporter has come up with a plan to take two four-year-olds to see five Santas in one day.

This proves to be an idea without much forethought. The film struggles with the idea of messing with young children's minds and in order to keep them happy, the childless reporter acquiesces to every request for ice creams, drinks and cakes. A sugar rush takes hold. The reporter thinks it's totally fine for her to sit on Santa's knee. She chooses the skinniest Santa. It's not just the children's minds that begin to crumble. 

 - Stuff

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