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The Pinkies Are Back

★★★½ - STUFF 

- Uplifting Kiwi doco about determination and dragon boating - 

In the early part of last decade, they were regular medallists at the New Zealand Dragon Boat Championships.

However, over the last few years, numbers have dwindled for the Auckland-based Pink Dragons. At the start of the 2019-20 season, they only had seven members – not even enough to fill half-a-boat.

That’s just the reality of what happens when all of your team are survivors of breast cancer – sometimes it comes back. 

But, as Lisa Burd’s uplifting documentary highlights, the remaining septet are not about to give up their paddles, instead embarking on a recruitment drive that gets them plenty of new blood.

For coach Sooupu Perese, whose other charges include New Zealand’s Black Dragons, that represents a massive challenge of having just four months to whip 17 paddlers, many of whom had never tried the sport before (“I know you go forward,” newbie Glenda Tan cheerfully admits) into shape for a shot at the regional championships.

“It’s like herding cats,” captain Annemarie Stevens sighs, as she tries to get them to be at their twice weekly trainings on time – and focused. It isn’t long though, before everyone starts to gel, bond, unite and, most importantly, feels comfortable enough to motivate each other and share laughter – and tears.

“On and off the water – we’re a family,” the Dragons’ “young gun” Liz Horne says. “We’d drop everything to be there for one another. You can have the most supportive partner, but they don’t know what you’re going through the way this team do.”

Burd, whose previous doco Let’s Talk About Sex looked at the modern state of New Zealand sexuality through the eyes of former The Real Housewives of Auckland star Julia Sloane and other Kiwi women, has again unearthed a cadre of frank, open and honest subjects willing to allow their personal journeys to be exposed.

Some of the “Pinkies” allow Burd into their homes, campervans and one even lets us accompany her to the hospital for tests. The lumps, chemo and the surgeries though are most definitely not the focus here. Instead, it’s the team’s fight to turn an initially humiliating debut on the Waikato River, where they were last by a number of boat lengths, into motivation to defeat their great rivals in the “breast cancer division” – the Boobops and Busting With Life – and win a medal at the Auckland Regional Champs.

There will be highs and lows along the way – and you’ll learn plenty about dragon boating, resilience and determination. 

- James Croot, STUFF 

The Pinkies Are Back is now playing at Light House Petone & Pauatahanui!

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