Updated: Jun 29
A documentary is currently in development about Centrepoint, funded by NZ On Air, in collaboration with Warner Bros Studio New Zealand and TVNZ. It has a large budget of NZD $1 million. It will be aired on NZ television sometime in early 2021, will be 90 mins long, and is being developed by an experienced NZ based TV film maker. The intention is that the story of how Centrepoint came into being, and how things went wrong over the years, will be explored. Rather than a black and white portrayal of manipulation, abuse, and neglect (as has historically been the approach by the media), this documentary will attempt to tell a full, compassionate and nuanced story.
The net has been cast wide for people willing to contribute to this story. The intention is that anyone who has something to say, and who can fill in the blanks and complete the picture, could get an opportunity to speak. Not many people will feel comfortable doing this. It is a profoundly exposing act to tell one's story on such a stage, to release the control of your personal material to someone else.
I think there are many reasons why people might refuse such an invitation. People may fear that this may bring up unnecessary pain for others, or that it might name and shame individuals. That innocent people could be hurt, humiliated, or judged. That bringing up these intense emotions will do little to restore anything broken. Will those who take a risk in the telling live to regret it later? Will their stories humiliate and expose those they love? Have portrayals by the media previously helped the healing of individuals who have shared their stories on this topic? Does the creative team behind the documentary have the maturity, the flexibility, the honesty and integrity to tell a tale of this magnitude, and complexity, without trite conclusions floating to the top, without trying to simplistically answer questions which do not have clear answers, without scape-goating? These are some of the concerns I have heard expressed. In addition there is the personal cost for those who are interviewed of living with these very intimate details of one's past out in the open, for strangers to criticise, to minimise or to deny.
I think also there are many reasons to support such a project. This project has the power - if the story is told well - to explain how the good intentions and grand ambitions of intentional and thinking people ended up costing many of their children, and also themselves, so much. It has the power to offer space and understanding, and to open the door for a standing-with empathy, which sees and acknowledges painful mistakes and offers understanding. This telling may enable people with entrenched, unsympathetic positions, who have to date been uninterested in hearing about the painful experiences of others from their past (often family members), to move into a more open or empathetic position. This could open the doors to communication which previously has been completely impossible. It also may provide a chance for the truth of many people (not just the dominant) to be told, even if these truths co-existing side by side are difficult to balance. It might make it easier for those who have tried to simplify the narrative historically, to newly see its complexity, and to understand that the mistakes that happened at Centrepoint Community could happen again in New Zealand. Those who come to the viewing with an open mind and heart might be enlarged by these stories, or might find some healing in their own situation through this documentary. Wherever truth is allowed to be told, society is made richer by it, especially when those truths come from the minority, or less powerful, or vulnerable within.
I do remain surprised, that a community that was so concerned with healing, with therapeutic process, with honest exploration and exposure of motivations and pain, has done such a poor job after the fact at attending to the healing of members of the community who suffered during their time there. For whatever reason, the story of Centrepoint Community has not been finished. The brokenness has not been acknowledged, honoured, or recognised. This documentary is happening, and whether people who had experience of living at Centrepoint choose to participate through interviews with the film crew or not, here is an opportunity to explore our own stories, within the greater story. This is a chance to open up the conversation again, to ask ourselves, and those whom we continue to be in relationship with from that time (be they friends or family), is this finished yet for you? Is it finished yet for me? Is there anything else left that needs to be said? Have you or I been silenced all these years and continue to hold secrets that break our hearts, or are we free? This documentary will not provide answers to the question of whether or not any of us have found freedom from the pains of the past, but perhaps this could be the time for those of us who have the space in our heads for it, to go back there once again.
People who wish to know more about this documentary can make contact to find out more by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org