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Poppy is the new heroine

Ari Boyland [left] with councillor Brent Gare and actor Libby Hunsdale. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

A sellout fundraiser in Masterton for the film Poppy has raised money for charity and helped showcase the New Zealand film industry.

Masterton district councillor Brent Gare was one of the organisers of the event at The Screening Room.

Poppy was released around New Zealand last week.

Gare, along with many other locals, was also an extra in the film which was partly shot in and around Masterton.

“It was a fantastic experience, and it’s also an opportunity to give something back to the community.

“It was great fun,” he said of his role as an MC in the film.

The advance screening sold 114 tickets and raised about $1500 for the Wairarapa charity Riding for the Disabled.

“We could have sold more,” Gare said.

“It went really well. For us to be able to get and screen the film in advance of general release is really cool.”

Lead actors Ari Boyland and Libby Hunsdale attended the fundraiser, along with screenplay writer and director Linda Niccol.

The charity has more than 50 groups throughout New Zealand and aims to provide goal-based riding activities to help increase the confidence of people with physical, intellectual, emotional and social challenges.

Gare said the charity was chosen because they did not appear to do a lot of fundraising.

“They were absolutely stoked.”

The event resonated with the story of Poppy, a young woman with Down syndrome, whose ambition is to become a motor mechanic.

Her promised apprenticeship is stalled by her brother, who has reluctantly inherited the family garage business. Poppy then teams up with a school friend who needs his car fixed for the local burnout competition, and her plan progresses from there.

Poppy is the first Kiwi feature to cast an actor with Down syndrome in a lead role.

Whanganui teen Hunsdale stars as Poppy, while Shortland Street actor Boyland is her older brother.

“The movie is quite uplifting,” Gare said.

“It’s message is no matter what your situation, if you put your mind to it, you can do it.”

He said the film was also an example of the New Zealand film industry showing resilience through the covid pandemic, having been

“I hope people go and see the movie.”

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