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 US movie magazine ‘Variety’.

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DAVE is Poppy’s “super grouchy” brother. Ari Boyland will be familiar to NZ audiences of The Tribe, Power Rangers, Shortland Street. An accomplished and experienced actor, he was a generous collaborator on POPPY. Ari is recently returned from Australia where he was cast in SBS series The Unusual Suspects.

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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.

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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.

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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 projects in post-production 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).


POPPY is Linda’s debut feature as writer/director. As well as developing nine spec feature scripts, Linda has previously written and directed four short films and a range of promotional videos. Two of her shorts have screened at festivals in New Zealand and overseas. 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. Her eye (and ear) for detail, visual style and elegance, witty juxtaposition and emotional metaphor is 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 focuses on female protagonists and POPPY is one such story. With backing from the New Zealand Film Commission, Linda spent six months working on the feature film McLaren with director Roger Donaldson. This determined her move to this next level of filmmaking, realising a 10-year ambition to tell the story of POPPY.


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 Heart Dances, screened at NZIFF in 2018 and at various international festivals in Europe and North America. 


Alex Cole-Baker initially worked as a production manager on commercials, documentaries and television series while producing short films and music videos. She then had her first experience as production accountant on Scarfies, helping out a friend in need and leading to such work on many local and international film and television productions, including In My Father’s Den and Ghost in the Shell. This experience provided her with the experience, support and encouragement to make her own mark. Her first dramatic feature as producer was The Most Fun You Can Have Dying, with writer/director Kirstin Marcon, filmed across 14 cities in 7 countries. Other projects in development continue to focus on breaking new ground or tackling difficult topics; an anarchic punk road movie is currently in the wings. Alex has participated in international producer labs and workshops, as well as festival and market attendance.