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River of Freedom streams to the world

12 Dec 2023

Kiwis at home and abroad and international audiences eagerly awaiting the release of River of Freedom can stream it across online platforms from TODAY.  

Journeyman Pictures has secured worldwide rights to the New Zealand box office smash, River of Freedom. “A unique and visceral account of the under-reported and divisive furore that erupted in NZ over its Covid policy,” says Journeyman’s CEO, Mark Stucke.  

The documentary will launch on Apple TV and can also be streamed via Journeyman.tv and Vimeo. A broader release to digital platforms Amazon and Google will follow.

River of Freedom was crowd-funded and distributed independently.  It was the most watched film in New Zealand on 21st September and #10 at the NZ Box Office in its third week, nudging Oppenheimer out.  Ignored by mainstream media and playing on only a few screens, audiences travelled from far and wide. Ticket sales were compared to Barbie and Oppenheimer, even Lord of the Rings.

The film is written, produced and directed by Canterbury's Gaylene Barnes (Seven Rivers Walking) and produced by Jared Connon (Pearl) and Julian Arahanga (Colonial Combat). Robin Monotti Graziadei (Amir Naderi's Mountain) is executive producer.  
Barnes is “really proud of the success of our film in New Zealand and how it touched audiences.” She is looking forward to the voyage of River of Freedom with Journeyman. “What an opportunity for people the world over to experience New Zealand at its best…  and at its worst.”

River of Freedom is a powerful and emotional journey into New Zealand’s notorious 2022 ‘Parliament protest’ - a massive uprising against Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s severe No Jab, No Job mandatory Covid-19 vaccination regime, one of the harshest worldwide.
Fed up with restrictions on almost the entire workforce, thousands of New Zealanders from all walks of life convoy to Parliament in early February 2022.  On arrival in Wellington, without a government-issued ‘vaccine passport’, most are refused entry to hotels, cafes and amenities. Nevertheless, they are welcomed by tangata whenua (Māori) to Parliament’s front lawn, where they set up camp.

A brutal assault by police on 10 February fails to remove the protestors; rather it shocks the nation and attracts thousands more. As a storm approaches, the Speaker of the House, Trevor Mallard, orders flood-lighting, loud music and vaccination advertising to be played on repeat; the lawn sprinklers are also turned on.  However, Mallard’s torture tactics, along with the worst cyclone in 60 years, fail to dampen the peoples’ determination to stay.  They respond with humour and common unity while they wait to be heard.

Ardern commands that all parliamentarians must ignore the protesters.  Every politician, from both sides of the House, unite and comply, refusing to acknowledge the thousands of people below their balcony, in a rapidly growing ‘Freedom Village’.

Ultimately, in a coordinated attack, the police ambush the camp at dawn, clearing everyone out using methods never before seen in Aotearoa. A professional filmmaking team were on the road and embedded within the protest movement throughout the almost month-long convoy and occupation.  River of Freedom lays out the reasons behind the uprising - who the people were, why they were there and what happened.

Many artists donated the rights to their songs for use in the film including Eric Clapton’s This Has Gotta Stop and We’re All Criminals by the UK’s Right Said Fred, to name but a few.