Film review: Compelling New Zealand documentary ‘She Shears’ celebrates skill and competitive spirit of female shearers


A must-see New Zealand documentary follows five female sheep shearers on their journey to the Gold Shears.

Walk Japan

Review: Emma Rawson, Film stills Rebecca McMillan

Sheep shearing is bloody hard yacka. Adult sheep weigh in at approximately 65 kg and they kick and struggle to escape the shearer’s comb. It is hot, sweaty, daggy and dirty in a woolshed however, for the five women starring in the New Zealand documentary She Shears, shearing has an addictive quality. “I just really like sheep,” says Hazel Wood, a junior shearer from Ruawai who currently shears 150 in a day but aspires to shear 300.

Former world champion sheep shearer Jills Angus Burney is now a High Court barrister and solicitor. 

Veteran shearer and former Women’s World Record holder (541 lambs in nine hours) Jills Angus Burney reckons she has “sheep sh*t for brains”. When an orthopaedic surgeon told her that her shearing days were over she forged a second career as a High Court barrister and solicitor, but she can’t resist the pull of the wool. Each year she returns for another crack at the Golden Shears, the shearing and wool handling competition in Masterton and Oscars of the sheep shearing industry.

Emily Welch

There’s no separate category for women at the Golden Shears. They compete alongside the men.“I always try to make it not guys vs. gals, just competitors vs. competitors,” says Emily Welch who overtook Jills’ record in 2007, shearing 648 lambs in nine hours.

Contestants are scored on speed and accuracy with points deducted for nicks and inaccurate clips. The high-speed wool handling competition measures accuracy sorting the wool – a blur of wool throws, floor sweeping, bundling and a shake down.

First-time documentary director James Nicol (formerly a production assistant on The Hobbit movies) shows he’s a gifted filmmaker. He gives the back-breaking competition a magical quality without deflecting from the skill and strength of the female competitors. Yes, the women are competing in a male-dominated field, but this film never makes the story about the men nor measures the genders against each other. It’s a celebration of women at the top of their sport.

Pagan Karauria

Central Otago shearer and wool handler Pagan Karauria’s return to the Golden Shears following a car accident that killed two of her friends is told with beautiful restraint. This is a heartfelt documentary packed with humour – a must-see at the New Zealand International Film Festival.

The New Zealand International Film Festival finishes in Auckland on 12 August and tours New Zealand. Visit www.nziff.co.nz for dates.

She Shears 79 minutes
DIRECTOR
Jack Nicol
PRODUCERS
Georgina Allison Conder, Ainsley Gardiner
Financed with support from Rural Women New Zealand.

You may also like...

How to knit a lamb jacket You can buy ‘woolover’ jackets to keep newborn lambs warm, but you can also make your own from scratch, or re-purpose an old jumper.Words: Lyn...
New Zealand’s five rare feral sheep breeds Arapawa ewesThese five feral sheep breeds are vastly different to romney breed which make up approximately 68% of this country's sheep population...
Caring for sheep during the colder months The unseasonably hot summer means farmers should keep a close eye on ewes this winter.Words: Clive DaltonIt’s going to be a tough winter f...
The documentary Plant This Movie will change the w... Plant This Movie explores different types of urban farming around the world.Review: Plant This Movie Words: Emma RawsonUrban farming - sound...
Discuss This Article

Send this to friend