A Tall Long Faced Tale is a 70 minute documentary produced by ProductionShed.TV for TVNZ‘s Artsville slot.
Margaret, a highly private individual would never allow for a biographical documentary to be done. However, when long time friend Yvonne Mackay, asked Margaret whether she’d be interviewed by her characters, the cheeky and eccentric author couldn’t resist. In this 70 minute documentary Margaret is interviewed by her most iconic and exciting animated characters, The Witch in the Cherry Tree, Mother Pirate, and Mahy-expert and author Elizabeth Knox. Together they get to the heart of Margaret’s creative work and philosophy.
An interviewer once asked Margaret Mahy, “If she were transformed into her true self, what she would become?” Margaret replied, “A tall long-faced tale”. What better way to describe a legend who is widely acknowledged to be one of New Zealand’s greatest writers?
Margaret Mahy is famous for her children’s and young adult books and has received many literary accolades including the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2006 – the world’s most prestigious acknowledgement for excellence in children’s writing. But there was much more to Margaret Mahy than that.
In this documentary we discover the real Margaret – Margaret the intellectual,
Margaret the magical, Margaret the witty, the whimsical and the wicked.
The subject matter is wide reaching and covers subjects such as memory and identity, secrets and fate, transformations and dreams. These ingredients effortlessly slide between her books and her life and Margaret even surprises herself with her answers.
Elizabeth Knox, an established and renowned writer in her own right who is both a friend of Margaret and a leading authority on Margaret’s work guides us through this very personal look into the life and thoughts of Margaret Mahy.
When director Yvonne Mackay suggested that in this documentary Margaret’s own characters might help interview her, she was so intrigued about what could eventuate she forgot her vow to never do another documentary that might even slightly resemble a biography.
Animated paper cut-outs like the Lion from The Lion in the Meadow and the Witch from The Witch in the Cherry Tree step into Margaret’s living room and her life. They leave as they came, appearing and vanishing as slickly as a Cheshire cat. The young adult characters from her books are portrayed by students from Toi Whakaari, New Zealand’s National Drama School and are seen in live action excerpts until, fascinated by their origins, they appear in Margaret’s lounge, her office or her garden to ask her their questions.
Adding to these fascinating characters are interviews with American illustrator Steven Kellog (The Boy Who Was Followed Home), English Jenny Williams (The Lion in the Meadow, The Witch in the Cherry Tree), and Quentin Blake (Nonstop Nonsense) and animation by the late great Euan Frizzell.