New Zealand Herald's first long-form documentary 'Under The Bridge' out today

The New Zealand Herald today launches its first foray into long-form documentary making with Under The Bridge, an immersion into a world most Kiwis have not experienced.

The 30-minute film tells the story of a year in the life of Papakura High School, one of the country's most disadvantaged.

Through the eyes of three students and their principal, Under The Bridge tackles key social issues such as child poverty, housing and education.

The project began in February last year when a group of award-winning Herald journalists embarked on a feature story.

We wanted to look at the state of education through the eyes of Year 13 students preparing for final exams.

We found a school with a falling roll, low staff morale, under-maintained buildings and results among the worst in New Zealand.

But there was hope.

Students dedicated to building a future for themselves and inspiring others; a charismatic new principal with big plans for turning things around; a core of teachers committed to helping their kids find a future in a world where dreams are usually something other people have.

We found a heart-warming, raw and uplifting story of pride and prejudice; a group of passionate people determined to turn around the school and its reputation.

Some of the students are stars , dedicated to building a future for themselves and inspiring others. Photo/ Mike Scott
Some of the students are stars , dedicated to building a future for themselves and inspiring others. Photo/ Mike Scott

The film was a collaboration with Greenstone TV, one of New Zealand's leading production companies. It was made with a grant of more than $70,000 from New Zealand on Air.

The documentary was produced and directed by Canon Award-winning journalists Kirsty Johnston and Mike Scott from the Herald's investigations and special projects team. Herald videographers Michael Craig and Nick Reed played key roles in the filming.

Johnston says the most inspiring part of the project was getting to know the students.

"I came to really respect their values - all of them love their family and community so much - and I learned a lot from spending time with them. It was truly a privilege to be able to experience their world and to be able to take viewers inside a part of society we usually only see in a negative light."

The film is the centrepiece of a week of multimedia content starting today. The full documentary and a long-form accompanying feature are released at 4pm. Five supplementary short videos and a string of stories will be rolled out later in the week.

• Watch the documentary from 4pm today.

- NZ Herald

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