by Greta Yeoman

The words and work of the late Celia Lashlie have been transformed into a film, which will screen in Timaru later this month.

The film has been the project of long-time TV journalist Amanda Millar, who took on the challenge of turning the work of the high-profile activist into a documentary – at the request of the woman herself.

Speaking to The Courier before of the film’s world premiere in Wellington last week, Millar – who interviewed Lashlie several times while working at 60 Minutes and afterwards as her part-time communications assistant – said the film began in 2014, but in a very different format.

The pair had begun discussing the creation of a series of documentary shorts to screen ahead of the 2017 general election.

They would focus on social issues close to Lashlie’s heart, namely, New Zealand’s prison statistics, domestic violence, the importance of empowering mothers to reform society and supporting growing teenage boys into good men.

However, in early 2015, the former prison officer announced that she had terminal pancreatic cancer.

“We knew she wasn’t well,” Millar said.

The duo then knew their short film series was not going to happen, but Millar then got a request she could not refuse.

“What do you do when a woman like Celia Lashlie asks you to make a documentary [about her work] as her dying wish? You don’t say no.”

The high-profile activist planned to start filming in late February 2015, giving her family and friends a month or so to get used to her diagnosis.

But Lashlie’s daughter, Rebekah Henderson, rang Millar on February 14, 2015, saying Lashlie was hosting a party for all her family and friends and for her to bring a camera – Lashlie wanted to do an interview.

Millar and camerawoman Belinda Walshe spent an hour and a-half discussing her life and work, an interview that forms the backbone of the film.

“We captured what was an amazing interview.”

It was a timely piece of filming, as Lashlie died two days later.

“We thought this was the start of filming, but it was the end of it.”

Millar said Lashlie recognised the film as her final way to share vital messages after her death, as a way of continuing discussions about the appalling domestic violence, prison and suicide statistics in Aotearoa.

Millar is ready to share the film with the world.

“[It has been] tucked up ready to go for a few weeks,” Millar said.

She was looking forward to seeing the response from audiences around the country.

“[We want] to get this film to people who know she [Lashlie] understands them.”

Celia will screen at Movie Max Timaru at 6pm on August 23, as part of the New Zealand International Film Festival. For more information visit

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