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Bougainville's 'Mr Pip' ready to premiere in NZ


Mr-Pip-1200THE AWARD-WINNING BOOK Mr Pip by Kiwi author Lloyd Jones has been given the big screen treatment and will open in New Zealand next month.

It’s been quite a journey for Kiwi director Andrew Adamson. Tonight's New Zealand premiere is two years on from the shoot, and a year after he first showed it at the Toronto Film Festival.

Since then, he's been busy re-cutting it. "The version I showed at Toronto was a lot harsher, and I felt it needed that at the time. I think to some degree I was desensitised," says Adamson.

Set against the backdrop of the brutal civil war in Bougainville, the new, improved Mr Pip is much less graphic.

"I wanted it to be accessible to a teenage audience," says Adamson.

"The film is about a teenage girl, the book is read in schools here, [and] I wanted to make sure it was accessible to that age group."

The teenage girl’s name is Matilda. She and the rest of her tiny village are given an escape from the horrors around them, albeit only in their imaginations, as the only white man left on the island introduces them to Charles Dickens' Great Expectations and the world of Pip.

Adamson filmed on Bougainville, familiar terrain for the filmmaker, who spent his teenage years living in Papua New Guinea.

He says it was imperative, despite the inherent logistical challenges, that he shoot the film there.

"It became very apparent after speaking to people that it would just be wrong to make it anywhere else," he says.

"This was very much their story. They’d suffered for their story and they wanted to tell the story. It was very cathartic for the people involved. They were ready to get their story out to the world."

He also found Xzannja, his lead actress, locally. She says she took her first-ever acting experience very seriously.

"It changed my life a lot," she says. "During the film I felt a huge responsibility on me as I was actually going to be portraying real events.

"Some of them lost their lives, lost people they loved in the crisis, and I was gonna help them tell their story."

Xzannja celebrated her 15th birthday during the filming.


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Peter Kranz

I think it would be a pity if Adamson watered-down the film to make it less harsh.

The brutality is in the original book, as well of course the redemption, which is only made the more powerful by the preceding depravity.

Plus of course it is based on real incidents.

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