Documentary Challenges New Zealand’s Role in Afghanistan

Published: Fri 12 Jul 2013 03:09 PM
NZ International Film Festival Documentary Challenges New Zealand’s Role in Afghanistan
New Zealand's military engagement in Afghanistan is the subject of a challenging documentary screening during the New Zealand International Film Festival in Auckland , Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.
He Toki Huna: New Zealand in Afghanistan explores New Zealand's involvement in Afghanistan – the longest ever war in which this country has played a part. The film will screen at SKYCITY in Auckland on Sunday 4 August; at Soundings Theatre, Te Papa on Friday 9 and Saturday 10 August; at Northlands in Christchurch on Sunday 18 August and in Dunedin at the Rialto on Wednesday 21 August and Thursday 22 August.
Originally commissioned by Maori Television with an initial version screening on the eve of Anzac Day, the film festival version has been significantly expanded and re-edited to include additional footage and analysis.
He Toki Huna is co-produced and director by award-winning filmmakers Annie Goldson (Brother Number One, An Island Calling) and Kay Ellmers (Canvassing the Treaty, Polynesian Panthers) who say they always felt the film would translate well on the big screen and being part of the film festival will generate more debate about what they believe is a very important issue to all New Zealanders.
He Toki Huna (The Hidden Adze) takes viewers on the ground in Afghanistan with independent New Zealand journalist Jon Stephenson as he seeks eyewitness accounts of incidents involving New Zealand troops, and interviews soldiers who have served on the front line in Afghanistan.
The film gives an overview of the engagement, and backgrounds some of Afghanistan’s turbulent history to provide context to the post 9/11 invasion.
Dr Goldson said the documentary sheds light on our recent past and holds valuable lessons for the future.
"By joining in the war post-911, have we been 'good global citizens' fighting the good fight against international terrorism? Or did New Zealand enter into an alliance that has meant our soldiers have been actively and militarily involved in a complex conflict that most of us know little about and have not agreed to participate in?”
She added that the film was timely given the footage of actual firefights in Afghanistan which have appeared on Youtube, and the ongoing international debates around privacy. “Who has information on whom, how this information is obtained, dispersed or withheld are issues that need to concern us all, particularly those of us in democratic countries that presumably should be adhering to certain principles and providing moral examples to the world at large.”
Dr Goldson said most New Zealanders’ knowledge of our military engagement in Afghanistan will have been acquired through “embedded” media reports that have been carefully controlled.
Co-director/producer Kay Ellmers said the film does pose some uncomfortable questions about the political motivations that sent young New Zealand men and women to battle in a very ill-defined war “against an unclear and shifting ‘enemy’, supporting a new Afghan ‘state’ with little support amongst its own population.
“Most importantly, unlike most other media coverage to date, we hear from Afghans themselves, did they want us there, and what has our presence achieved? We give voice to the indigenous population and seek their analysis of New Zealand’s presence in their homeland.”
He Toki Huna: New Zealand in Afghanistan will be screened as part of the New Zealand International Film Festival in Auckland on Sunday 4 August; in Wellington on Friday 9 and Saturday 10 August; in Christchurch on Sunday 18 August and in Dunedin on Wednesday 21 and Thursday 22 August. Tickets and details are available at
He Toki Huna: New Zealand in Afghanistan was funded through NZ on Air and Maori Television Service with generous support from The University of Auckland and assistance from the New Zealand Film Commission’s Feature Film Finishing Grant.

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