Showcasing scientific greatness at the 2018 International Film Festival

A documentary feature-film about New Zealand science great Sir Paul Callaghan is set to showcase his extraordinary life at the 2018 International Film Festival.

Paul Callaghan: Dancing with Atoms was produced and directed by Shirley Horrocks, a leading New Zealand documentary director and alumna of the University of Auckland. It is the first film profile of renowned nuclear physicist Sir Callaghan and features a multitude of scientists from across the country, including the University of Auckland’s Professor Shaun Hendy, Director of Te Pūunaha Matatini.

Shirley Horrocks, photo by Marti Friedlander

Horrocks said Sir Callaghan, who passed away in 2012, was a great ideas man, environmentalist, scientist, public commentator, and mentor, who was loved by many.

“The documentary traces Sir Paul’s life from his early years in Whanganui. The film celebrates his work as a great science communicator and teacher.

 “I believe the documentary will have broad appeal – it is not just for those interested in science,” she said.

It was through Horrocks’ belief of needing to improve public understanding and support for science that the film, which the University of Auckland helped fund, was born.

“We can both celebrate the example he set, and highlight his advocacy of science and research.”

Sir Callaghan held many distinguished awards and achievements. He was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand in 1991 and of the Royal Society of London in 2001, he was appointed a Principal Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2006, was formally knighted in 2009, and was the Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year.

He came from a modest background in Whanganui, often getting into trouble as a schoolboy with his passion for backyard science experiments. He went on to receive a scholarship to attend the University of Oxford. After his studies he lived in Palmerston North where he was a lecturer at Massey University and a researcher, making the most of limited resources for international gain.

Horrocks said the documentary was an important piece of New Zealand’s history.

“Sir Paul made a great impact on the people of New Zealand during his lifetime, and it is important now to keep his memory alive… He offers a very special model of science and of citizenship. As Professor Kathryn McGrath said of Sir Paul in an obituary ‘He makes you want to be better. And everybody needs that, I think.’”

The festival’s first Auckland screening of the film will be a charity screening, with proceeds going to the Cancer Society for research. It will be held at the ASB Waterfront Theatre, at 6.15pm on Tuesday 24 July.

There will be two following Auckland screenings of the documentary, Friday 27 July at 11.30am, and Saturday 28 July at 2pm, both at the Rialto Cinema in Newmarket.

Tickets for the general public are available through Auckland International Film Festival outlets.

There are also screenings in Christchurch, Dunedin, Palmerston North, New Plymouth and Nelson as part of the festival.