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By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Directed by Mark J. Gordon
Image Entertainment, Inc. 08/06 DVD/VHS Feature Film
PG - thematic elements and some mild language
Thirteen-year-old Elizabeth (Sally Andrews) lives with her mother (Alison Routledge), father (Mark Clare), and older brother Stuart (Craig Elliott) in the rural town of Middleton, New Zealand. The year is 1953. Elizabeth is a huge fan of Queen Elizabeth and has many fantasies about meeting her. When she learns that the Queen will be visiting New Zealand, Elizabeth begins writing letters to her in hopes that she will include Middleton on her itinerary. This obsession makes this plucky young girl the object of negative comments by some of the town's leading citizens. But when Elizabeth befriends Hira Mata (Vicky Haughton), an elderly Maori woman who lives in a rundown shack on the edge of town, the gossip engines really heat up. Youngsters in the area think Hira is a cannibal or a witch. After Elizabeth's brother loses his job at a factory to a Maori, he throws a brick through Hira Mata's window. Things escalate when the community learns that the Queen will visit Middleton. The snobbish head of the welcoming committee wants to get rid of Hira's shack, which she thinks is an embarrassing eyesore.
Mark J. Gordon is the writer and director of this engaging drama about the spiritual practice of openness. Elizabeth's enthusiasm and idealism are a powerful force in the town. She gets to know Hira Mata and learns that her people's land was stolen by whites and her father, a tribal leader who was once presented with a set of pistols by one of Queen Elizabeth's ancestors, was murdered. This elderly woman takes Elizabeth to the sacred site of her father's grave and in solidarity with her paints a tattoo on her chin. At school, Elizabeth is ridiculed and roughed up by some prejudiced boys. But she persists in her relationship with Hira Mata, much to the dismay of her father who has his own dark reasons for not wanting his daughter to fraternize with this Maori woman.
It is always inspiring to see a teenager who has the spunk and the courage to stand up for her convictions in the face of community disapproval. Elizabeth is a hero who practices openness toward all. While watching this drama unfold, we remembered the prayer of William Penn, an English Quaker who said: "O God, help us not to despise or oppose what we do not understand." Elizabeth's quest for tolerance and justice is rewarded when the Queen arrives with a few surprises of her own. This is a top-drawer family film and should be a part of every religious community's DVD library.
Special DVD features include "A Royal Good Time: The Making of Her Majesty" and the theatrical trailer.
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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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