She Shears

New Zealand documentary on five women with a passion for sheep shearing - two of whom are legends, three of whom are stars on the rise.

"When a Kiwi girl sets her heart on becoming a shearer there’s not a lot that’s going to stop her, as the five women profiled in this lively doco happily testify. Central Otago’s Pagan Karauria admits it was tough getting a gig at the start, but with her champion dad staunchly behind her, she’s made the shearing shed the focus of her career, not just as a competitive shearer, but as an ace wool sorter and mentor to other young women. Catherine Mullooly, from the King Country, packs her skills for some enterprising OE. With whānau solidly backing them, each of these women strive, more than anything, to better themselves.

"For legends, Jills Angus Burney and Emily Welch, personal bests have been world records. Encouraged to quit in her 50s by her orthopaedist, Angus Burney found a second career as a High Court barrister and solicitor, but you can’t keep her away from the Golden Shears, the world’s top shearing competition.

"There’s no special category for women in this sport. For Ruawai’s Hazel Wood, busting to escape the world of dairy conversion, the competition represents a first foot on the ladder. Pagan’s student Anne Maree makes good on her promise to look good and have fun on the competition floor. Pagan herself claims she’s bent on placing ‘first or second’, though her true determination lies in beating the terrible internal injuries suffered in a road accident." (New Zealand International Film Festival)

Trailers

Directed by

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Documentary, Festival & Independent

79mins

Rating: Exempt

New Zealand

About midway through She Shears, a documentary about the women who form a small but dogged minority of New Zealand’s shearing industry, subject Emily Welch explains her philosophy: “You can’t rise to low expectations”. It’s a deceptively simple platitude and one which, much like She Shears itself, belies how radical and remarkable the mere act of striving for greatness can be.

Chronicling the lives of some of New Zealand’s most legendary female shearers, as well as a few of the most promising up and comers, as they prepare for the sheep shearing world championships, She Shears is a quiet, thoughtful examination of a craft–and a group–that generally goes unseen.

From shearing world record holder Welch, a mother of three who juggles running a business with competition, to shearing and wool sorting double-threat Pagan Karauria, who mentors young women also interested in the craft, these women are tough, quickly and efficiently obliterating any notion that the sport is one more suited to men.

Yet, as champion sheep shearer and High Court Barrister Jills Angus Burney points out, looming larger than the myth of physical capability here is a social presumption that women are not–or should not–be competitive. Perhaps most impressive then (other than the work itself, looking back-breaking), is the sheer determination with which these women have approached their dreams.

While it may at times be lacking the excitement and frisson of the competitions it documents, the dignity and integrity with which first time director Jack Nicol imbues his subjects makes She Shears watchable in a different way. A rare and rewarding glimpse into the lives of women rarely seen or heard on screen, She Shears is an illuminating celebration of what it means to rise to one’s own expectations.

Stuff.co.nz (James Croot)

press

Throw in some gorgeous rural vistas, ornery ovines and inspirational quotes like "you can't rise to low expectations" and "you can't rest on your laurels, or the sheep will destroy you" and the result is an absorbing watch.