25 April DVD Review

DVD Review by Jarred Tito

The Premise
25 April is an innovative feature documentary created to bring the story of the New Zealand experiences at Gallipoli (Turkey) to life for a modern audience through a reimagined world. Using graphic novel-like animation, 25 April brings First World War experiences out of the usual black and white archive pictures and into vibrant, dynamic colour. Weaving together animated ‘interviews’ based on the diaries, letters and memoirs of six people who were actually there, the film tells the compelling and heart-wrenching tale of war, friendship, loss and redemption using the words of those who experienced it.

The Review
I wasn't sure how an animated production of such a serious subject - war, would work without diminishing some of the importance and sacredness of the whole tragic episode of Gallipoli. The 25th of April has for many years been a time when New Zealander's and Australian's alike, remember, celebrate and mourn those many ANZAC soldiers who lost their lives in an effort to preserve our basic freedoms. How to get a younger generation that has no memory of such events other than it's a day we are taught to remember, to properly appreciate the value of the many sacrifices made, is a problem that needed to be addressed -  Lest We Forget.

I can honestly say that throughout this documentary, which runs more like a drama/narrative, I was continually moved to just about every possible emotion conceivable. At times I could completely feel the excitement of the younger soldiers as they first joined the army and of the young Australian nurse as she set sail to help in the floating hospital of the coast of Gallipoli. I could sense the reservation in the voice of the older officer whose duty it was to see that the ANZACS made it successfully onto the beach. I could feel the sadness and terror of those that had lost 'mates' and family members. And the joy the soldiers felt as they poured over the letters sent from family and friends back home. The fact that the characters were animated played on my mind for only a minute or two but were soon forgotten as I became swept up in the stories. True stories from those men and women who were gracious enough to have written them down so that we, so many years later, could experience what they themselves had endured.

The actors' voices, behind the animation, were spot on and although some may point out that back in those day the New Zealand and Australian accents would have been more English in nature. But I can testify to the fact that it was a very wise choice to use accents that were more definitive to this part of the world. Watch the film and you'll understand exactly what I mean.

There are so many things about 25 April which are truly memorable for me as both a movie goer and a New Zealander. To hear stories told from actual participants and then to be able to visualise something of what was being told was simply priceless. Although 25 April was made with the purpose of reigniting the younger minds of our community of the importance of that time and to the severity of war, this film is in fact an event for every age group from this country and abroad. It gives the viewer a good insight into what it meant to be alive during war, any war, as a soldier, as an objector or as an aid. War had its effect on everyone. This film, in my opinion, is truly one of the best New Zealand made films that the NZ Film Commission has had the good sense to back. A work of art.       

The Verdict
In my view this is certainly one of the few films that I could almost recommend as compulsory viewing. Not only because of the faultlessness of the production value but also the story and message behind it. This is not only a well-made film by New Zealand standards but worldwide. I highly recommend a viewing

The Trailer

The Info
DVD Releases: 26th July 2016
Rating: M – Contains war themes
Duration: 100 minutes 
Genre:  Documentary Animation
Starring: Tainui Tukiwaho, Andrew Grainger, Chelsie Preston Crayford
Director: Leanne Pooley (Beyond The Edge)

The Extras
In New Zealand, the words “Gallipoli” and “ANZAC” have many meanings and great
significance. So much so, that April 25th is a public holiday - a day of remembrance
throughout the nation. And the year 2015-16 was designated by the NZ Government as WW100, a year of wide-ranging centenary commemorations, of which this film is a part.

In the words of 25 APRIL director Leanne Pooley: “Every New Zealander, young and
old, has the word Gallipoli etched into their psyche; it is part of our DNA. We all know
that thousands were killed and many more wounded. We know that our national identity was forged on those distant shores, not in victory, but in defeat.

Acknowledging the sacrifices made by our forebears on the beaches of Turkey a century ago is part of what it means to be a Kiwi.”

Producer Matthew Metcalfe came up with the idea to re-tell the Gallipoli story using

modern animation techniques. He says, “Over time, the story has become legend steeped in myth – so much so that very few can now recount what really happened.