Student leads Covid-19 documentary on our 'pink-haired scientist' - Dr Siouxsie Wiles

4 October 2022

Phillida Perry
Phillida Perry, who completed her Bachelor of Laws in 1995 and Master of Professional Writing in 2022, is now studying for a BA with the School of Arts, majoring in English

A documentary feature film about a pink-haired scientist who communicated life-saving information to Kiwis during a worldwide pandemic has been led by a University of Waikato student.

Recent Master of Professional Writing graduate and Bachelor of Arts (BA) student, Phillida Perry, co-produced Ms. Information, a 90-minute film that follows Dr Siouxsie Wiles and Covid-19, traversing the impact of misinformation, female leadership, misogyny, and identity.

The independently produced and funded documentary will hit New Zealand screens in 2023 if it can bridge the $100,000 post-production funding gap. So far, $180,000 has been raised.

While it’s a film about Covid-19 and the anxieties that come with it, Phillida says it also unpacks New Zealanders’ various reactions to Siouxsie, an unconventional female leader distilling and communicating science into easy-to-understand messages for the public.

“In the moment of crisis, we needed someone to anchor us,” Phillida says.

Siouxsie’s rise in fame, her outspoken nature and distinctive appearance turn her into a feminist icon but also make her a target for violent and threatening abuse.

“People insulted her weight, her pink hair, they questioned whether she is a real scientist, they threatened to kill her; they just wanted to take her down.”

Phillida says she’s proud the film continues the “dialogue around barriers to entry for women that still exist to this day. It shows our daughters and sons a woman who leads by her values and in her own authentic way.”

The creative team, including Gwen Isaac (director), Alex Reed (co-producer), and John Silvester (editor) have been working on the film since the start of the pandemic. It is a labour of love, borne off the back of their award-winning short film, Siouxsie & the Virus (2020). 

A Boosted fundraising campaign to raise money for Ms. Information is running through October. The filmmakers are holding an event at the Tauranga Art Gallery on October 17 and an event at Objectspace in Auckland on October 19 where they will discuss the film and answer questions and a panel of trailblazing women will reflect on their experiences as female leaders and how damaging misinformation is to society.

Originally from Wairarapa, Phillida has spent the last 25 years in the Bay of Plenty, studying remotely from the University’s Hamilton campus, looking after her three children, and running two businesses.

Phillida, who completed her Bachelor of Laws in 1995 and Master of Professional Writing in 2022, is now studying for a BA with the School of Arts, majoring in English.

“I love studying at Waikato, it’s a treasure chest of knowledge and incredible academics who are willing to support you to reach your goals.

“For me coming back to university after years in law and business has been a delight, the lecturers are keen to understand your goals and are willing to tailor learning opportunities to help you reach them.”

Phillida is also co-founder of Daughter, a production company dedicated to female empowerment stories, had various poems and short stories published in Mayhem Journal (Editor in Chief Dr Tracey Slaughter, Senior Lecturer of Creative Writing at Waikato), and one of her short stories was shortlisted for the Frank Sargeson Prize in 2021.

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