★★★★ - STUFF
- In a better world than this, Celia the film would not yet exist.
Celia Lashlie should still be doing her ground-breaking, revolutionary, compassionate and globally significant work, and she would never have found the time to sit for three days while journalist and film-maker Amanda Millar prompted her to reflect on and unpick some of her many, many accomplishments.
Lashlie was the prison guard who became an educator, who became an advocate and a best-selling and hugely admired author. She founded her life on speaking truth to power, often in some of the saltiest language prime-time and public radio had ever heard.
Lashlie's books, especially He'll Be OK: Growing Gorgeous Boys into Good Men and Journey to Prison: Who Goes and Why have been influential in challenging and evolving New Zealander's attitudes to upbringing and education all the way from Parliament to the house next door. A friend of mine credits what she learned from He'll Be OK with quite possibly saving her son's life.
Lashlie was diagnosed with cancer late in 2014. Perhaps taking their cue from Lashlie's own approach, the tumours didn't pause in their task or take any prisoners. She died in February 2015.
In the few months she had, Lashlie reached out to her friend Millar. The veteran journalist and film maker was the perfect collaborator for this project. A trove of excellent archival material from Lashlie's numerous TV and radio contributions are tightly woven into an incandescent final interview, with Lashlie clearly in pain but ablaze with the need to get her thoughts and experience out there one last time.
While our elected members still routinely politicise crime and its causes, and the way forward muddied by agendas and dogma, Lashlie was a clear, dogged and uncompromisingly sensible advocate for actual solutions that worked in the real world. She was no friend of the "get punitive on crime" advocates, but neither did she have much time for naivety.
Millar's film is timely, clear-eyed and necessary.
Celia should be compulsory viewing for anyone who works in education, social services, incarceration or corrections in New Zealand. It is also an undeniably engrossing, entertaining and often surprisingly funny watch. Bravo.
- Graeme Tuckett, STUFF