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The power of resilience personified on screen

by Dominic Corry, NZ Herald

A group of Kiwi women exhibit inspirational attitudes in the face of cancer in The Pinkies are Back, a gentle and affecting local documentary.

The Pink Dragons are an Auckland-based dragon-boating team comprised entirely of breast cancer patients.

It has existed for more than 10 years, but as the film begins, the team is on a rebuilding year. For obvious reasons, they sometimes lose members, and in the previous year’s competition they competed with a mixed boat only partially made up of breast cancer survivors.

For the latest season, they want a full breast cancer boat, so that involves bringing in several new recruits alongside established veterans.

On the brink of extinction, the Pink Dragons were saved by a group of 17 new recruits.

The problem was, these unsuspecting women, mostly unfit, had no idea what they had got themselves into.

Most had never stepped foot in a boat before or even held a paddle — and The Pinkies Are Back follows the story of how they overcame the challenges to rebuild the inspiring team made up entirely of breast cancer survivors.

The film chronicles the attempts of their head coach Sooupu Perese to get the team into shape, and we join them for various regattas throughout the season.

Director Lisa Burd (who made 2018’s Let’s Talk About Sex) also hones in on various individual members of the team who speak eloquently about how being a member of the Pink Dragons has helped them stare down the challenges of breast cancer.

The film isn’t super glossy, but it more than makes up for its lack of slick production values with the indefatigable positions of its subjects, who all display an empowering sense of positivity mixed with singular Kiwi humour and humility.

There is a palpable sense of camaraderie among the women linked by sharing the burden of a major health issue that still remains under-recognised — “the shadow in the back of your head” as one puts it.

From younger member Liz Horne to “Camp Mother” Annabelle Waetford, they all simply get on with it.

Although they may not win every race (there are other breast cancer teams in the competition), nothing resembles defeatism here, and you will leave the theatre invigorated by their irrepressibility.

The Pinkies are Back, a Rialto Distribution release, is rated PG for some offensive language. Running time 95 minutes. Three-and-a-half stars out of five.

INSPIRATIONAL WOMEN: Auckland’s Pink Dragons dragon boating team are the focus of the new Kiwi documentary The Pinkies Are Back. Picture supplied
PINK DRAGONS: Team captain Annemarie Stevens and producer/director Lisa Burd. Picture supplied