War Stories

Director: Gaylene Preston
Screenwriters: Gaylene Preston

Institute History

  • 1996 Sundance Film Festival


It’s always a pleasure to find a documentary that is gorgeously lit and shot in 35 mm, complete with beautifully restored archival footage and a tasty Dolby stereo sound track. And when a documentary with such sumptuous production values brings with it wonderful characters, arresting stories, startling insights, and new knowledge about another era, the pleasure transcends the merely cinematic and rises to another level. War Stories is such a documentary.

Simply constructed as a series of interviews overlaid with archival footage and personal photos, War Stories presents seven elderly women of different classes, races, and cultural backgrounds speaking about the impact of the Second World War on their lives. Revelation follows revelation as Preston uncovers emotions long repressed by pain, smothered in shame, or disregarded as insignificantly personal in the context of the international politics of war. The candor with which all these women speak is astonishing from a group we tend to think has either not experienced or glossed over sexual passion, illicit love, heroic adventure, social ostracism, career fulfillment, and painful death. As the film progresses, the tales become more and more surprising, the emotions ever more deeply felt. Because the film is rigorously and specifically local, it presents a wide-ranging and reverberant portrait of New Zealand womanhood of the period.

— Kay Armatage, Toronto Film Festival

Screening Details


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