A Tall, Long-Faced Tale

Saturday 23 August, 8.30pm

An interviewer once asked Margaret Mahy: “If she were transformed into her true self, what would she become?” Margaret replied, “A tall long-faced tale”. What better way to describe a person who is widely acknowledged to be one of New Zealand’s greatest writers?

Margaret Mahy is famous for her children’s and young adult books and has received many literary accolades, the most recent being the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2006 – one of the world’s most prestigious acknowledgements for excellence in children’s writing. But there is much more to Margaret Mahy than that.
In A Tall, Long-Faced Tale, viewers get an opportunity to see the real Margaret – Margaret the intellectual, Margaret the magical, Margaret the witty, the whimsical and the wicked, as interviewed by some of her own fictional characters and fellow author Elizabeth Knox.

Knox is both a friend of Mahy’s and a leading authority on her work. Like Mahy before her, Knox is also a winner of the Esther Glen Award for her children’s novel, Dream Hunter and her novel The Vintner’s Luck is being made into a major feature film.

When director Yvonne Mackay suggested that in this documentary Mahy’s own characters might also help interview her, Mahy was so intrigued about what could eventuate she forgot her vow never to do another documentary that might even slightly resemble a biography!

Animated paper cut-outs like the Lion from The Lion in the Meadow and the Witch from The Witch in the Cherry Tree step into Mahy’s living room and her life. They leave as they came, appearing and vanishing as slickly as a Cheshire cat. The young adult characters from her books are portrayed by students from Toi Whakaari, New Zealand’s National Drama School, and are seen in live action excerpts until, fascinated by their origins, they appear in Mahy’s lounge, office and garden to ask her their questions.

The subject matter is wide-reaching and covers subjects such as memory and identity, secrets and fate, transformations and dreams. These ingredients effortlessly slide between her books and her life and Mahy even surprises herself with her answers.

Adding to these fascinating characters are interviews with some of Margaret’s delightful, extraordinary and zany illustrators – Quentin Blake, Steven Kellogg and Jenny Williams.

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