POPPY, the girl with a little bit extra
A spirited young woman with Down syndrome assumes she’s entitled to live a life like anyone else, yet the person she trusts most puts her in the “disability” box forcing her to take control of her destiny and to eventually exceed even her own goals.
Poppy is held back from life by her brother Dave and by the perceptions of those who don’t know her. Her guardian since the death of their parents in a car accident, Dave is overwhelmed, by the responsibility; his unhappy inertia contrasting with the positivity and quiet determination of his sister. But his sullen reticence proves no match for her common sense, direct way of speaking and emotional honesty.
When Dave’s underestimation of her abilities and his need to protect her from disappointment and failure frustrate her plans to become a motor mechanic Poppy is forced to find support where she can and to employ secret strategies to achieve her goal of an independent life.
In a quietly observational style, the film makes the point that everyone has the right to fulfil their potential.
Funded through the Film Commission’s 125 Fund celebrating the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand, POPPY is a female driven project with a strong and inspirational female lead played by an equally strong and inspiring young woman with Down syndrome.
Linda Niccol’s joyful tribute to a young woman with a disability who won’t take no for an answer was 10 years in development before receiving recognition by the New Zealand Film Commission and subsequently TVNZ and NZ On Air.
POPPY was filmed in Kapiti both before and after lockdown in 2020. It was the first New Zealand film to resume production under Level 2 Covid Health and Safety protocols, making headlines in ‘Variety’.
DAVE is Poppy’s “super grouchy” brother. Ari Boyland will be familiar to NZ audiences of The Tribe, Power Rangers, and Shortland Street. An accomplished and experienced actor, he was a generous collaborator on POPPY. Ari has more recently appeared in the Australian series The Unusual Suspects for SBS, and TVNZ's Mystic, season 2.
LUKE is played by newcomer Seb Hunter, a singer/songwriter/actor who completely fitted the bill for the role of Poppy’s ex-schoolfriend with career and disability challenges of his own. Seb composed and performed his own songs on the film’s soundtrack. In 2021 Seb was awarded Victoria University's first FAME Trust emerging practitioner scholarship for music and theatre.
POPPY in the form of Libby Hunsdale was “discovered” via a nationwide search for a young woman with Down syndrome to play this leading role. Libby immediately connected with Poppy and her struggle to achieve her goals and to live life on her own terms. Her performance won a Best Actress award at the Socially Relevant Film Festival in New York.
SOPHIA befriends Poppy when she registers for her provisional drivers’ licence – and, played by Kali Kopae, she becomes the focus of Poppy’s match-making attempts. Kali is known to New Zealand audiences for Colonial Combat and The Dead Lands and has two features releasing in 2022, Whina and Northspur.
POPPY Production team with Libby and family at the Attitude Awards.
From L-R: Robin Laing (Producer), Linda Niccol (Writer/Director), Libby Hunsdale (Poppy), Barbara Andrews (Libby's Grandmother), Jane Hall (Libby's Godmother), Alex Cole-Baker (Producer).
WRITER / DIRECTOR
POPPY is Linda’s debut feature as writer/director - the realisation of a 10-year ambition to bring the story to the screen. She has previously written and directed four short films (two of which have screened at festivals in New Zealand and internationally) and a range of promotional videos. Her co-written feature film Second-Hand Wedding was a breakout success in New Zealand, making it into the Top 10 New Zealand films at the box office. Linda’s eye (and ear) for detail, visual style and elegance, witty juxtaposition, and emotional metaphor are evident in her writing and directing. She has published two collections of short stories and her writing has been broadcast and widely anthologised. Her recent work and focus is on the female protagonist and she is concerned to encourage audiences to identify with “underdog” characters faced with more than the usual challenges in life. Linda is currently working on a new screenplay.
Robin Laing is a producer of film and television. Her credits include dramatic and documentary features (Mr Wrong, War Stories, Perfect Strangers, The Vintner’s Luck) for the cinema and dramatic series and documentaries (Bread and Roses, A Flip and Two Twisters, Pleasures and Dangers) for television as well as several short films with new filmmakers – one of which screened at Venice and another at Cannes. POPPY is her first collaboration with Linda Niccol and continues her career focus on the female protagonist and partnerships with women directors, including Gaylene Preston, Christine Jeffs and Niki Caro. Apart from her long-time collaboration with Preston, Robin has worked independently as a producer. All of her features have screened at key festivals at home and abroad. Her most recent feature, Rebecca Tansley's documentary, The Heat Dances, screnned at NZIFF in 2018 and at various international festivals in Europe and North America. Robin is currently developing a contemporary feature drama, plus two period dramas with female protagonists.