You might think that with a title like Oranges and Sunshine, this next film in the Kitchen Stove Film Series was a light-hearted comedy.
Kitchen Stove’s October film, Beginners, was a light-hearted and sometimes humorous look at a man getting to know his father. But despite the warm, sunny title Oranges and Sunshine is a drama looking at a dark chapter of Britain’s past.
Oranges and Sunshine was the promise made to the many “home children” forcibly relocated from the United Kingdom to Australia.
“This is based on the real life scenario of a social worker, working in Britain in the 1980s, who stumbles across some shocking files that indicate that British Social Services had been silently and illegally deporting unwanted kids to Australia, hushing them out of the country,” said Rosemarie Fulbrook, one of the festival organizers.
Margaret Humphreys (Emily Watson) was a social worker from Nottingham who uncovered the scandal of home children. Deported children were promised oranges and sunshine but got hard labour and life in institutions such as Keaney College in Bindoon, Western Australia.
The film studies the lives of the emotionally-scarred adults who, as poor working-class children, were illegally deported in the 1940s and ‘50s. Humphreys reunites estranged families and brings worldwide attention to the cause.
“It sounds like a very powerful drama dealing with some fairly harsh subject matter, but from my understanding of the movie, it does it carefully and with tremendous sensitivity,” said Fulbrook. “It’s not sensationalized, but I don’t think they move away from how difficult these children’s lives were and the fact that it’s based on a true story.”
The film, which is director Jim Loach’s debut, is told almost completely from Humphrey’s point of view, as she stumbles across the story of some 130,000 children separated from their families and sent to Australia, starting after the end of the Second World War and continuing into the early 1970s.
Some of the children were orphans, and others weren’t, but few records were kept of the enforced deportation and even less interest was shown in the sometimes Dickensian treatment the children received at the destination, which, at its worst, ranged from near slave labour to sexual abuse.
“It’s a very complex, obviously an issue-based film,” said Fulbrook. “I think it will be fairly intense.”
There will be two showings of the film on Nov. 3, at 4 and 7 p.m. Tickets are $12 each and are available at the Penticton Art Gallery (250-493-2928) and the Book Shop (250-492-6661). Limited tickets available at the door.