My Year with Helen

My Year with Helen


Kiwi filmmaking legend Gaylene Preston follows former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark as she runs for UN Secretary General.... More

My Year with Helen gives a closely observed view of Helen’s bid for the top job, as the UN turns itself inside out in an effort to deliver unprecedented transparency in an historic year. Gaylene Preston’s cameras follow Helen Clark campaigning for Secretary-General while also carrying out her work as Administrator of UNDP, filming Clark in Botswana, Britain, Spain and Ukraine as well as the UN’s New York headquarters.Hide

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Flicks Review

What a difference losing makes. Helen Clark’s well-documented, ultimately unsuccessful, bid to become United Nations’ Secretary-General may have dented personal dreams, as well as Kiwi aspirations throughout diplomatic, political, and public spheres - but boy has it set Gaylene Preston’s film up to be more than just a victory lap.... More

While there’s plenty of inside access to Preston’s subject, Clark isn’t as constant a fixture on screen as the title may suggest, allowing the most forthright cases for her to get the gig to be made by others, as well as advancing informed critiques of the U.N.’s historical (and still-present) gender bias. Interviews with Clark and footage of her at work as U.N. Development Program head certainly build a case for her skill set, but the compelling arguments for a woman to finally be appointed Secretary-General, and the optimism of those voicing them, are what contribute to this being such a moving, revealing, documentary when those hopes are eventually dashed.

Clark will be a familiar presence to New Zealanders in her conversations with Preston, and while she displays much of the no-nonsense personality Kiwis know full well, the former PM may be willing to share her thoughts but is still very much in campaign mode, with the limitations that entails. More revealing are candid moments - in the Waihi Beach home of her father George; talking social media in the back seat of a car; drinking beer out of a wine glass at a U.N. function.

By losing out in the quest for a job in which every word must be chosen ever-so-carefully, Clark’s eventual on-camera silence in defeat speaks volumes. In her partly-resigned, partly-dejected demeanour, she carries the dented hopes of women and feminists alike, making My Year With Helen a compelling argument for change at the head of the U.N. and other male-dominated political institutions.Hide

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So interesting to see behind the scenes of it all, Helen is amazing what she has achieved and even making the time to make meals for her elderly Dad when so much travel and meetings and work for the UN. What an inspiration!

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The Press Reviews

  • I found its direct, fact-based approach refreshing. And if I walked away disappointed in the real life outcome, I also learned a thing or two. Full Review

  • It's a sickeningly fascinating examination of the human condition, the politics of change and the lip service that goes in, but thanks to Gaylene Preston's light and deft touch, what it becomes, is a dignified and restrained, yet undeniable clarion call to arms. Full Review

  • [My Year with Helen] has charm and gravitas, has subtle humour and huge moments where the viewer will feel pride even as disbelief seeps in, as frustration rides alongside every key moment. Full Review

  • What begins as an observation of Clark's six-year tenure at the UN becomes a fascinating analysis of how the Secretary-General is selected - the UN's top job, and a position that's been held only by men. Full Review

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