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Aunty and the Star People


Wed 25 Feb 2015, 7:00pm–8:25pm
Thu 26 Feb 2015, 7:00pm–8:25pm
Fri 27 Feb 2015, 7:00pm–8:25pm
Sat 28 Feb 2015, 4:30pm–5:55pm
Sat 28 Feb 2015, 7:00pm–8:25pm

Where: Nga Taonga Sound & Vision, 84 Taranaki St, Te Aro, Wellington

Restrictions: All Ages

Ticket Information:

  • General admission: $10.00
  • Concession: $8.00
  • Additional fees may apply


This run of "Aunty and the Star People" (2014) screens in memory of Wellington’s “Jean Aunty,” who sadly passed on December 29, 2014. For 30 years Jean Watson worked to change the fortunes of the poorest of children in Tamil Nadu, on the rural plains of Southern India.

Join us for a Q&A session with producer Jo Coffey following the first screening of "Aunty and the Star People," on Wednesday 18 February.

Jean was in her fifties when she started her new life in India. As she told director Gerard Smyth, “I was a tourist, I never intended any of this… I think it was my karma.”

Jean battled every obstacle to develop and grow an “Illam,” a children’s home. The lives of thousands have been changed. In the film the orphaned children, the fruits of Jean’s work, challenge our assumptions of India. We meet optimism, wisdom and excitement. We see the wonderful results that education brings to the poor. These children represent the revolution that is India today.

Old friend and peer Joy Cowley declares Jean to be a saint. An unsung national hero?

“Eighty-year-old writer Jean Watson could hardly be more self-deprecating in responding to his [Smyth’s] attention in this film, but by the end of his account of her surprising life you might wonder why there’s not been a film about her already. The book-loving daughter of Northland dairy farmers, she’s best known in New Zealand for 'Stand in the Rain,' a novel published in 1965, and for her decade-long involvement with another literary scion of the land, Barry Crump. What is less well known is that 30 years ago she sold her Wellington house and used the proceeds to buy the land for a children’s home in Tamil Nadu in southern India. We follow along on one of her frequent visits. She guides us around the rapidly changing world of her ‘Star People,’ named for the white stars painted on their faces. The value of her work is there for all to see, not least in the hospitality of successful former beneficiaries, and the shining eyes of the children enjoying shelter and educational opportunities” - New Zealand International Film Festival, 2014

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