By Dave Goosselink
It's a story that shocked the nation in 2002, when a 50-year practice was revealed.
Greenlane Hospital admitted the hearts of over 1000 children had been taken without permission for research purposes.
Now a group of filmmakers is looking to tell the story by tracing a very unusual reunion.
It's taken eight years to get the cameras rolling on the story, but its one Jackie van Beek was determined to tell, after hearing a first-hand account of Greenlane's 'heart library' from a young student.
"She was called up by her family and asked to go into Greenlane Hospital and collect her uncle's heart, which had been stored there for 50 years," says van Beek.
Greenlane Hospital admitted and apologised for the practice in 2002. It said 1300 infant hearts from across the country were taken without permission, and kept for educational research.
The organs were finally returned to families in white wooden boxes.
Van Beek's film In Safe Hands follows the student as she reunites the heart with her dead grandmother, a journey which began rather awkwardly.
"She got given a brown paper bag, and she said that was the most surreal moment, just crossing that bridge holding a brown paper bag with all the other uni students passing her, and no one else knew what was in the bag," says van Beek.
The project has the blessing of Greenlane, but filmmakers almost gave up after being turned down by the major funding agencies.
"Do we shelve it, in which case it's probably never going to get made, but we decided it was just too good a story not to tell," says producer Aaron Watson.
With a budget of just $3,000, the team decided to call in favours and shoot in Dunedin, described by Watson as a very "film friendly" city.
"It's got everything you need and it's got beautiful locations all around. So if these big international shoots and we've got the crew, we've got the people, why aren't we telling our own stories here?"
This story's inspired many businesses to come onboard with goods and services, including one of Queenstown's film companies.
"He's sent down an incredible lighting truck, one of the greatest digital cameras you can possibly have, some of his own guys, so we've got really top professional crew," says Watson. "We've also got great professional local crew, you know, the hospital's opened its arms to us."
The film's expected to premiere in Dunedin later this year. Filmmakers hope it'll pave the way for more commercial projects to be shot here in the future.
source: newshub archive