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Newsreader hits headlines; Presenter's film is focus of international attention.

WE'RE used to seeing BBC Look North presenter Sharon Barbour in front of the camera - but the newsreader is proving she can more than cut it behind the lens too.

Sharon has been picking up a clutch of awards and travelling the world after directing a documentary about a real-life tragedy in her native New Zealand.

The Wahine Disaster premiered on Maori TV in April - to mark the 40th anniversary of the sea catastrophe.

The hour-long film documents the worst passenger liner disaster in New Zealand's history.

In 1968 the grand Wahine sailed in the most violent storm New Zealand had ever seen. On board were 734 passengers and crew. After hitting rocks, the captain ordered everyone on board to abandon ship. On the day itself 51 people lost their lives.

Others later died from their injuries.

Directed by Wellingtonian Sharon, the documentary beat 275 films to take the top prize in the UK's largest screening event, the Swansea Bay Film Festival.

The film was also been shortlisted as a finalist at the prestigious Moondance Film Festival in the USA and just last week was shown at the acclaimed Tribeca Cinema in New York, where Sharon flew over for a question and answer session on the disaster.

It has also been selected for screening at one of Hollywood's top A-list events - the West Hollywood Film Festival.

The film is the official selection for the Reel Earth Aotearoa Film Festival and the International Film Festival of England.

It has also been shortlisted as a finalist for the International Film Festival of South Africa.

Shown in selected cinemas to mark the anniversary, it went into the top 10 film charts in New Zealand cinemas. Film critics rated it with four stars and described it as "gripping".

It is also in the pipeline for broadcast on the BBC in the UK. Self-funded by Sharon, the film had taken years to research and features survivors of the disaster and heroes who rescued them. Many had never told their story before. The film was shown to survivors, rescuers and their families on the anniversary at the Museum of Wellington.


TOP PRIZE: Filming on location and Sharon with her Swansea award; GRIPPING: The Wahine DVD
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Aug 8, 2008
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