Series Classification: PG (Parental Guidance)
Director: Skye Clark
As Cyclone Gabrielle hit the Esk Valley with full force, the Gray family sought safety on the roof top while Chris Barber and his children survived by climbing through a hole in the ceiling. Aftermath explores the physical, material and emotional toll for these families and how they and their community are healing. This is the story of trauma and healing, mana and whānau pulling together.
Skye Clark was originally filming a supply drop from a military helicopter to the little Hawke’s Bay town of Mohaka, when her focus quickly changed.
“I remember crying while flying over the top of Esk Valley because of the livelihoods that had been damaged.
“But also it really hit me that I was cut off from my whānau that live in Taupō and I had also become isolated overnight.”
Her documentary Aftermath explores the devastation Cyclone Gabrielle left on the Esk Valley and how Hawke’s Bay families are grappling to put their lives back together, following the destruction of their homes, businesses and livelihoods.
In her film, Clark interviews the owner of the Zeelandt Brewery in Esk Valley, Chris Barber, whose business had been completely damaged only a year after opening.
“My brother also owns a brewery in Taupō so it was easy for me to relate to Chris because I know how much hard work goes into creating a business and lifestyle like that,” Clark said.
Clark says it was difficult to film the interview, and the emotions can be seen throughout the documentary.
“His whole life dream has been affected, so filming and editing his story I felt I held a lot of responsibility for his own health and wellbeing,” Clark said.
While driving through the Valley, Clark pulled over when she saw multiple people working really hard around a ravaged home.
She approached the house where she met the owner Kerei Gray and his son Hezi.
“I was really drawn to his son Hezi who is just so spunky and gorgeous and such a great kid and I was so interested in their relationship,” Clark said.
She says she felt she learnt a lot from the Gray family about wairua and the importance of their land.
“They were working to heal their spirits from their trauma and they were doing that by working through the house, looking after and caring for their land,” she said.
Clark’s film opens and closes with a shot of herself and her son sitting on the couch and cuddling to show that it was a “story of us all”.
“There was a lot of shock and disbelief that I could be here in my home and literally 5km away people were being rescued off the top of their houses and we had no idea because there was no internet,” Clark said.
Clark says no matter where you live, everybody in Hawke’s Bay has been incredibly affected.
In her own words - Aftermath director Skye Clark
The night before Cyclone Gabrielle hit us I remember watching the forecast on the news. The weather maps indicated Hawkes Bay might just miss the brunt of the cyclone, but we still needed to beware.
I stayed awake that night, watching the trees blowing, hearing the rain on the roof. What unfolded over the coming days is still unfathomable to me.
Many years ago I’d worked in TV making documentaries. Suddenly I was out of documentary retirement and filming on a defence force chopper, delivering supplies to an isolated community.
As we flew over Esk Valley tears rolled down my cheeks as I filmed the carnage below. The area once beautiful, now pummelled, sunk in silt.
This valley is also the way I travel to my family in Taupō and in its current state un-passable. I too isolated from my family.
I grew up further up State Highway 5 which passes through this valley. As a teenager, I’d drive past the church and the vineyards and I would fantasise about a romantic life there.
Chris Barber from Zealandt Brewery had the life that I’d dreamt of as a teenager. He’d married his love in the local church, lived in a vineyard and had built a family business around it.
Chris has personally put in sweat and tears making countless sacrifices to build his dream, and in an instant, his life’s work is gone.
It’s hard for him to think back to life before the cyclone. I have to wonder who are we when the dream we have worked for has gone? How do we keep going? How do we get the energy to start over?
In the weeks that followed, the weather continued to play havoc with our lives, with continual rain warnings. I’ve seen the emotional effect on my son - he is now scared of rain. Now when it rains our community rushes to collect kids from school early, and we leave work early to get home.
Chris lives down the road from the Gray whānau. Hezi had spunk that I immediately adored. His Dad, Kerei, looked tough but showed himself to be a gentle giant. With the wairua and mana of his whānau at the forefront, I could feel the whenua they had with the valley and their home.
They’d been through hell that night but they were uplifting, working to support each other. Again I wonder what will happen to their whānau if the powers that be decide Esk Valley will be red-zoned and they can’t have their whānau whare here.
It is 7 years since I’ve made a documentary. I’ve never had to personally film, I always had a cinematographer and a sound person.
Doing it all is anxiety provoking, to say the least! The mud and dust added to the challenge. But the truth of Chris, Kerei, Hezi and my son kept me going forward with filming.
I hope that this film aids our community collectively so that we can keep growing.
In this short form documentary series, four award winning Kiwi filmmakers spend 72 hours in the life of devastating Cyclone Gabrielle, capturing the aftermath experienced by their own communities and themselves, from where they live, in some of the worst affected regions of the country.
Each stand-alone mini documentary dips into the lives of people on the ground, as they take action cleaning up, rebuilding, dropping critical supplies to stranded communities and much more.
Fast-turnaround, urgent and important this short form documentary series will reveal untold stories not seen in the headlines, told from a uniquely personal perspective.