Building Bridges: Bill Youren's Vision of Peace
DIRECTED BY: John Chrisstoffels
WRITTEN BY: James Beattie, Richard Bullen, Paul Millar
RUN TIME: 82 minutes
Building Bridges: Bill Youren’s Vision of Peace is a feature length documentary that chronicles the life and times of Hawkes Bay farmer and peace activist, Bill Youren, during the post war years up until the 1970’s. In particular, he was taken by the Chinese people, their history and art, as well as the new progressive possibilities that a new China in the 1950’s might offer.
In the name of peace, Bill was writing pro Chinese articles and letters to newspapers and magazines during a time when we in New Zealand, were fighting communism in Korea and later Vietnam. Bill became good friends with Rewi Alley and shared with him the love of Chinese art and culture, organising talks and exhibitions throughout New Zealand up until the time of his death (Bill died in 1983).
However, the most extraordinary thing about this documentary is that Bill filmed all his exploits on an 8mm movie camera. In this way the film provides a unique candid view of both New Zealand and China that has never been seen before. Not only do we get to see a rare glimpse of life behind the ‘Bamboo Curtain’ but also, we see aspects of a lost New Zealand at a time before television arrived.
Bill’s story is told primarily with all his own words from letters and articles alongside his own 8mm footage and slides. His daughter, Dale, tells us of his personal life while historians give us a context for the times in which Bill was living in.