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Something beautiful for the world

A local “powerhouse of a woman” is part of an ambitious, global film project to celebrate “how beautiful the world is, and how beautiful humanity can be”.

Carterton resident, writer, avid gardener and social campaigner Helen Dew is the subject of a short documentary called Being the Change at 85 – the third in a series of 12 films to be released once a month this year.

The dozen films – collectively titled Something Beautiful for the World – is a creative collaboration between New Zealand production company Happen Films, South African filmmakers Reflections of Life, and Sweden’s Campfire Stories.

The series launched in January on YouTube with the first documentary, Belonging, filmed by South African company, Reflections of Life.

Each of the films “showcases people whose small acts have an immeasurable impact” on the people and environments around them, Antoinette Wilson, Happen Films’ co-founder, said.

Wilson and her collaborators are “trying to tell stories that give a different view of how to be in the world,” she said.

“[They are stories] about people who are living in the world in ways that are inspirational to others. And Helen is a really good example of that: Of somebody whose day-to-day way of being has impacted not only the soil around her – the impact she has on the community is enormous.”

Dew is well known in her community, and further afield, for supporting a range of initiatives: Including the establishment of Carterton Farmers’ Market and community-development organisation Ka Pai Carterton, as well as maintaining an impressive edible garden, running regular workshops on seed-saving, gardening and composting, and promoting local and global currency projects. Wilson’s connection with Dew began just over a decade ago at Carteton Farmers’ Market – in what turned out to be a formative encounter.

“Helen had all her books out on the table, and she directed me to a couple that were quite life-changing for me,” Wilson, whose father grew up in Carterton, said.

“I wasn’t making films at that stage, so I really see her as being one of the people that set me on my path. Helen has been quite a defining person for me.”

Wilson and her creative partner, Jordan Osmond, first interviewed Dew for Happen Films’ first feature documentary, Living the Change [2018], which explores solutions to the climate change crisis.

“We loved how she spoke on camera – it always makes me cry. And we always had her in mind for a showcase documentary,” Wilson said.

“Helen is a kind of force,” Wilson said – and Being the Change at 85 explores “her commitment to what she does, her passion for it, for the ‘why’ of what she does.”

“Her commitment to spreading the message is so strong you can’t avoid her, and I think she’s amazing for that reason.”

Dew describes being asked to be part of Something Beautiful for the World as “unreal” and “a great honour” – but is far more modest about her efforts to live in an environmentally and socially conscious way.

“You see, the way I live makes perfect sense. I don’t see anything remarkable about it, but other people do,” she said.

However, she admits, “If you’d known me as a younger person, you wouldn’t recognise the person sitting here. Chalk and cheese.”

As a busy mum of four children, “being a mum and doing the practical things”, Dew she was “shy, extremely introverted, lacking in confidence and self-esteem. I wouldn’t say boo to a goose. Invisible.”

A formative encounter of her own with a church minister and counsellor in her mid-life helped her “recognise straightaway that the person I need to listen to first is me, pay attention to yourself, and what’s happening for you.”

She has been unstoppable ever since.

In 2002, Dew helped found the Living Economies Educational Trust to share with people “the DNA of money” and encourage communities to establish “sustainable, interest-free means of exchange” to strengthen regional economies.

It’s an aspect of Dew’s work that Wilson is particularly interested in, and she hopes Being the Change at 85 will help stimulate broader curiosity in the topic.

“I was just so fascinated about her perspective on alternative currencies and the impact of the money system on everything,” Wilson said. “ I just hope that having the film there gives her a platform for being able to share that message a bit more widely.”

And there’s another message Being the Change at 85 has the potential to share, Wilson said.

“I think there’s a really lovely and important message that ageing doesn’t need to mean slowing down,” she said.

“What’s really interesting about Helen is that she found herself and her reason for being when she was in her 60s. And I think that’s a hopeful and wonderful message – that as life goes on, rather than narrowing your focus or your world, you can expand it and become more engaged with your community and what makes you thrive in life.”

Being the Change at 85 premieres on Friday, March 22, at 7pm at the Rangitahi Hub at the Carterton Events Centre. Tickets are $8 from https://events.humanitix.com/being-the-change

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