Off The Tracks

Off The Tracks

"The aim of this film, initially, was to tag along with Helen Clark as she visited some countries, flew the diplomatic flag; a window into the idea of kindness and compassion within geo-politics (it’s still there if you search, as Preston and crew were planning). And then the film’s aims changed, just like that, suddenly Clark was very publicly being scrutinised in a campaign-length job-interview as she considered the top job at the UN, were she to get it would be the first ever woman awarded the role of Secretary General of the United Nations.

We know, before the film starts, that Clark was turned down, was unsuccessful. Preston mines documentary gold here – for this film would be a victory lap either way. The fact that Clark was unsuccessful give the film a huge power and keeps it – sadly – relevant for many years. That’s cold comfort in one sense of course, but it lends the film a potency. We see a very real, very human, very professional portrait of Clark in the glimpses we get. We also see the huge machine, the walls-have-ears in the wired-for-sound UN building. That Preston was able to get the footage she has seems remarkable. There must have been so many times when the camera had to be switched off – but there she is, sometimes filming on an iPhone, up close to Clark for several interviews that have a strange and lovely tension about them.

The resulting picture – that Helen is a tower of strength, that the UN and Big Politics is a sad old boys club – has charm and gravitas, has subtle humour and huge moments where the viewer will feel pride even as disbelief seeps in, as frustration rides alongside every key moment."

Read the review in full here.

The 13th Floor

The 13th Floor

"My Year with Helen takes an in-depth look at former Prime Minister Helen Clark’s bid for Secretary General, the top job at UN, where she has headed up the Development Programme for six years. For those who have followed Aunty Helen’s impressive career trajectory, it’s a warm and personal step into both her personal and professional life.

There’s the politician at work – arriving prepared for every meeting, gracefully tending to her constituency whether it’s a New York board room or a thatched hut in Botswana, handling her own social media or rewriting a speech. She is on top of it all, with no sign of nerves or stress. Then there’s the personal side – she rings her 94-year-old Dad every night and when she’s home in NZ, she cooks and freezes hundreds of meals for him to enjoy while she’s away.

But director Gaylene Preston also takes a step back and analyses the whole process of how the Secretary General is elected, the world-wide movement to elect a woman for the first time, the straw vote balloting and the duplicitous politics going on behind the scenes. Here is the real eye-opener of the film – and the irony of Helen Clark running as not only a woman (there were several other women contenders), but as the most qualified candidate, when the reality is that it’s a political position that has always gone to the candidate least likely to rock the boat, much less implement change. A serious woman candidate would need to meet the same mild-mannered, congenial politician-who-does-nothing criteria that previous male Secretaries General have met."

Read the review in full here.

Newsroom's Darren Bevan reviews My Year With Helen

Newsroom's Darren Bevan reviews My Year With Helen

"There's plenty to get frustrated about with Gaylene Preston's latest My Year With Helen, in which the Kiwi doco-maker spends time within Helen Clark's camp during her campaign for the United Nations' top job.

However, it's the boys-led system that will have you raging as the film plays out, not the way the film is constructed.

Tagging along with Clark, Preston had the idea to follow and see what doing good (as was Clark's desire) could actually achieve. But what, of course, transpired is that the former Labour leader and Prime Minister became the eye of the hurricane in a bid to become the next UN Secretary General.

Hindsight is both a blessing and a curse to this documentary.

It's a curse in that we all know the failed outcome of Clark's campaign, but it's also a blessing because what Preston actually captures, rather than an intimate diary of Clark's moods, dreams and desires is the fact the UN is in crisis. Having had eight men run it since its inception, what Preston's doco does is show what exactly is wrong with the global organisation, why the zeitgeist desire to get a woman to the top job galvanised so many, and ultimately, why the final result was a thumping defeat to those campaigning for glass-ceiling change."

Read the review in full here.

The first My Year With Helen review is here!

The first My Year With Helen review is here!

Read an excerpt of Flicks' 4 star review of My Year With Helen below:

What a difference losing makes. Helen Clark’s well-documented, ultimately unsuccessful, bid to become United Nations’ Secretary-General may have dented personal dreams, as well as Kiwi aspirations throughout diplomatic, political, and public spheres – but boy has it set Gaylene Preston’s film up to be more than just a victory lap.

While there’s plenty of inside access to Preston’s subject, Clark isn’t as constant a fixture on screen as the title may suggest, allowing the most forthright cases for her to get the gig to be made by others, as well as advancing informed critiques of the U.N.’s historical (and still-present) gender bias. Interviews with Clark and footage of her at work as U.N. Development Program head certainly build a case for her skill set, but the compelling arguments for a woman to finally be appointed Secretary-General, and the optimism of those voicing them, are what contribute to this being such a moving, revealing, documentary when those hopes are eventually dashed.

Read the review in full here.