by Helen Martin
Warm congratulations to Woodhill filmmaker Robyn Grace (Director, Writer) on her film ‘Oranges and Lemons’winning the coveted Creative New Zealand Jury Prize for Best New Zealand Short Film at this year’s Whanau Marama New Zealand International Film Festival. ‘Oranges and Lemons’ was competing against 77 other New Zealand short films.
In summary, the jury said ‘Oranges and Lemons’ “evokes beautifully the world and anxieties of childhood both in visual detail and performance, demonstrates a courage to resist sensationalism and predictability, while at the same time challenging, in a subtle and gentle way, our conditioned assumptions about human behaviour.”
Robyn, who was profiled in Helensville Community News in June 2019, says the story, set in 1973, was based on her experience of walking to school when she was five and being bullied by the neighbour’s daughter who wouldn’t let her walk with them. ‘Oranges and Lemons’ is about “summer and heat, childhood and bravery, it is a snapshot of a time gone by, when life was simpler, but bullying was just as complicated.” She wrote the story seven years ago and put the script away, coming back to it after her mother, Rhonda Grace, died unexpectedly and tragically in 2017. “It suddenly became important to tell the story that comes directly from my childhood and has a moment of my mum, in all her silent strength in the kitchen, keeping us all fed and moving forward. There are small moments of my mum in the film and it’s also about young girls learning to find their voice and their freedom, about women being loud enough to be heard. After the funeral when everything became quiet again, I had a thought about ‘Oranges and Lemons’ and the new ending sprang out of my brain at 3am. That’s when all the good stuff happens.”
The self-funded film was produced by Rory MacGillicuddy and the lead role was played by nine-year-old Papamoa Primary School girl Skyler Sylvester.