Film: Sedition: The suppression of dissent in World War II New Zealand
This afternoon I saw Russell Campbell's latest film 'Sedition: The Suppression of Dissent in World War II New Zealand'. The screening was introduced by Russell Campbell himself, who gave a quick introduction and acknowledged the presence of the CO veterans who were able to come to the premiere.
The film begins by introducing the key protagonists alongside their experiences of the first world war. Following the war, decorated soldier Ormond Burton, became a Methodist Minister and lifelong pacifist, faced imprisonment four times for speaking up against the slaughter of the second world war. Early leaders of the Labour party, Peter Fraser and Bob Semple were convicted of sedition for their strong opposition to conscription during the first world war, yet were both in the cabinet during the second war that introduced conscription, demonised the anti-war movement and cracked down hard on dissenters and consciencious objectors.
Most of the film is made up of interviews - allowing concies and those put in detention camps to tell their stories. There is a marked emphasis on the activities of the Christian Pacifist Society and other religious based groups - one interviewee relays the view of Burton that pacifism could only be true pacifism if grounded in Christian belief. But this is more likely to be due to the greater prominence of religion at the time (and who happened to be interviewed) than editorial decisions.
One of my favorite stories was the account of a meeting held in Wellington on the 9th of February 1940, following public threats by Wellington's right-wing mayor to close down any meetings of the Anti-Conscription Council. Ormond Burton got as far as 'ladies and gentlemen' before being arrested, and A.C. Barrington managed three minutes. The mayor spoke without interruption from police, only to be drowned out by a chant of 'Heil Hislop' from the crowd. There is also the story of Chris Palmer and Merv Browne, who made a cross country escape in 1944 from their dentention camp to Wellington to spread the peace message.
It was so great to see so many CO veterans at the screening, including many who appeared in the film. At the Question and Answer session afterwards, each got a chance to stand up in turn, and allow the crowd to acknowledge their struggle and the courage of their convictions.
Sedition is well worth seeing :)
Sedition uncovers untold stories - Press Release