Wider themes in ‘love letter to Central’

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Refugees, rabbits and rural life collide in a short film shot in Alexandra last year.

Run Rabbit, written and directed by Robyn Paterson, of Auckland, is set to screen at the Show Me Shorts Film Festival in Wanaka next week.

The film tells the story of a refugee faced with the challenge of adjusting to a new life in Central Otago.

Ms Paterson worked with real refugees to workshop the story and cast Saman Tehrani, a refugee from Iran, and Ram Al Laham, a refugee from Syria, in the film.

After they were cast, scenes were adjusted to suit their personal experiences, Ms Paterson said.

For Mr Al Laham, the hills of Alexandra were a reminder of the mountain areas of Syria.

“Seeing that landscape was the first time he had seen anywhere in New Zealand that triggered memories of home.”

The film was a “kind of love letter to Central Otago”, Ms Paterson said.

The “fascinating and dynamic landscape” of Alexandra was familiar from her childhood.

“Alexandra is a place I spent a lot of time in as a teenager.

“When my family moved from Zimbabwe when I was 13, we moved to Dunedin, and we spent a lot of time in Central Otago.

“I went to a boarding school, so a lot of people came from Central Otago.

“I think often when we put Central Otago on film and TV, we tend to be looking at Queenstown, Wanaka and the lakes.”

But Alexandra was equally beautiful in a different way, she said, and was a landscape that was explored less.

It was important to include the local community in the film, both behind the scenes and on screen, Ms Paterson said.

“We wanted to involve the local community as much as we could.”

Three young actors – Hannah Anderson, Jackson Collier and Joe Andrew, all of Alexandra – also appeared in the short film.

“I auditioned a number of drama students from Dunstan High School and cast these three.”

Eliza Chapman, of Alexandra, was locations liaison and her husband, Ben, and dog, Tip, appeared in the film.

Peter Lyon Shearing, of Alexandra, organised the sheep and local shearer Nathan Daniels appeared in the film alongside some of his team.

A key element of the plot was the Easter Bunny Hunt, and Dave Ramsay, of the Alexandra Lions Club, appeared as himself announcing the start of the hunt.

Chris Pickard, of Cromwell, who worked for many years in costume and wardrobe departments in Wellington, was convinced to come out of retirement for the film.

“Once we discovered that he had retired to Cromwell, we persuaded him to come out for one more job.”

The film will screen at the Show Me Shorts Film Festival in Wanaka on Saturday and Sunday, October 20 and 21, at Ruby’s Cinema.