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Shearing movie hits big screen

Jills Angus Burney. PHOTO/SUPPLIED


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Masterton-based champion shearer Jills Angus Burney says the documentary feature film ‘She Shears’ being released nationwide this month is a respectful and positive portrayal of “intrinsic New Zealand”.

The 86-minute-long film directed by Jack Nicol follows the lives of five female shearers — Angus Burney, Hazel Wood, Catherine Mullooly, Pagan Karauria and Emily Welch – and their performances at the Golden Shears.

Burney says it shows how modern rural communities are.

“They are modern enough that they respect women for being a shearing contractor like Emily [Welch]. I’m a shearing judge. The others are all competing at various levels.”

The film has won acclaim on the New Zealand International Film Festival circuit and will be released nationwide on October 11.

“It is a wonderful story about rural women,” Angus Burney said.

“It resonates with young people who aren’t necessarily living in rural communities and it resonates with older women because they can remember how hard it was to do anything”.

She said the film was a respectful portrayal of the whole wool industry.

It tells the story of the world records and other achievements of the women.

Angus Burney said when shearers walk into a wool shed they carry their tools in a bag or a box or a big bucket of gear.

When a woman walked in people assumed she was a wool handler or was carrying gear for her boyfriend.

“I can remember in the late 1980s after I did the world record and I was shearing in Yass near Canberra and there was a 92-year-old guy who had never seen a woman shearing. He watched me all day sitting on a bucket. He was fascinated.”

She said it had been really interesting watching audience reactions when the film was shown during the local film festival season.

“People are fascinated by the clothing we wear, the machinery and how we were treated.

“So there has been very broad support.”

Last week at a showing in Alexandra, a sheep breeder brought his children and invited them back to his station the next day.

“The young ones were inspired by women doing this. As Emily said at the launch in Auckland, it is not about whether you want to be a shearer, it is about whether you want to be something – you can do it.

“It’s inspirational. Women can do anything.”

She said the camera people, one of whom had worked for Sir Peter Jackson, had done a great job capturing beautiful scenery from five areas of New Zealand the women came from.

“They capture close-up the industry and they capture the Golden Shears beautifully.

“The theme really is we all shear in the same grades. Because of that it is unique.”

Angus Burney first started to shear at Waimapu Station at the age of 16.

“The blisters were so big because I was going so slow and so hard. When I went back to school in January I couldn’t hold a pen.”

She has just returned from judging at the Australian national championships in Perth. She expects the movie to be released in Australia, though doesn’t have dates yet.

“There are a lot of young women shearing in Australia now. The revival of wool industry is going really well in Australia so there is a lot of interest in women in the industry.”

The film was funded via crowd-funding, and some of its main sponsors included Rural Women New Zealand, Trust House and Farmlands.


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