Sell-out sessions, standing ovations and rave reviews have made a Wellington film about a lively 92-year-old woman, the surprise hit of this years NZ International Film Festival.
Gardening with Soul, about Sister Loyola Galvin of Island Bay, will now be having a nationwide release from Thursday 12 September at selected cinemas.
The story, which follows a year in the life and garden of Sister Loyola, the ‘gardening nun’ who won NZ Gardener of the Year in 2008, is full of such wisdom, humour and plucky sense of can-do-Kiwi attitude, director Jess Feast is not completely surprised the character has resonated so strongly with many people.
“I first heard Sister Loyola on Kim Hill’s Radio New Zealand show and there was something which stood out about her philosophies and take on life so I went up the road in Island Bay to the Home of Compassion and introduced myself. I was met by a tiny, but very funny woman, and a bond was formed. It wasn’t my original intent to make a documentary but I was driven by a mission to bottle this woman’s wisdom and spread it around.”
The film was made over a full year during which Feast wrangled one baby and became pregnant with another. For Sister Loyola this was one of the highlights of the documentary process, “It was fantastic that these women (Producer Vicky Pope also had a baby during the filming period), would bring their babies up to me at the Home of Compassion and we’ve been able to share in their lives. It’s been great fun, although I do think the film has rather a lot of me in it,” she laughs.
While some may think the documentary is a religious one, the film weaves around themes of faith, aging and compassion as well as the practicalities of community life, sustainable living, recycling and reuse, poverty and family values as well as issues within the Catholic Church, in an intimate and moving portrait of a woman approaching the end of her life.
Editor Annie Collins agreed to be part of the project as she felt Pakeha culture was not telling the stories of the elderly well, or often enough. “Maori culture is quite skilled and adept at this, you see many fantastic documentaries on Maori Television and I think it’s exceptionally important for us to be celebrating the wisdom of our older people.”
Producer Vicky Pope said the feedback has been overwhelming. “We knew we were onto a great story and many have said to me – ‘finally a kiwi film I can take my grandmother or mum to’, but more than that, I’ve had 20 year-old men in Dunedin raving to me about how much they enjoyed the film. This is the kind of kiwi story we firmly believe all New Zealanders should see.”
“For me personally one of the most interesting aspects of the film (and I’m no gardener) is the insight into the life and what it means to be a nun. This film is a time capsule into the lives of some incredible women in the service of compassion. Jess and I are not religious people so it’s amazing to be able to capture these daily realities and change the misconceptions. We have been very humbled by this filmmaking process.”
As Feast says, “Sister Loyola has touched so many people’s lives, from the orphans she has raised, the hospital care she carried out in the Hutt Valley, to the community gardeners in Island Bay. She lives and breathes the true meaning of compassion and I invite everyone to celebrate the wisdom of an amazingly unique character.”
Trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KkzFh83J8xA
Check Eventfinder.co.nz for local listing information.
Paraparaumu Cinema Gold