Tears flow for story of war babies

At the premiere of a film about children of United States servicemen stationed in the Pacific are...
At the premiere of a film about children of United States servicemen stationed in the Pacific are (from left) film-maker Steven Talley, Arthur Beren, his daughter Mignon Beren and Prof Judith Bennett. Photo by Gregor Richardson.

The son of a United States serviceman stationed in the Cook Islands shed a few tears at the premiere of a film telling the story of how he tracked down his long-lost American siblings.

The premiere of the film Children of War - based on the University of Otago department of history research into the histories of Pacific children of US servicemen stationed in the region during World War 2 - was held at Otago University last week.

Speaking after the premiere, Arthur Beren, who finally met his American siblings in 2011, with the help of Otago University researchers, said it was emotional seeing his story on film.

''It's so well made, and I couldn't help but shed a tear with the way the sensitivity came out,'' he said.

Mr Beren, who travelled from Kerikeri for the premiere, said it had been a long and difficult journey, tracking down his American family.

''My story has been one of many lies, lots of deceit, truths, and it's been a journey of discovery with the help of [Prof Judith] Bennett and her team.

''It's a been a journey of very satisfactory results and the unreserved acceptance by an American family, who knew years and years ago that they had a sibling out in the South Pacific, but could never track me down.''

Unfortunately, Mr Beren was 15 years too late when it came to tracking down his father, who was stationed in the Cook Islands during World War 2.

''But what I do have now, which I treasure, is that photograph of a man that gave me life.

''He even left behind a bottle of Scotch for me, a 60-plus-year-old bottle of Johnnie Walker. It was gorgeous,'' he said.

Steve Tally, who produced the film, said it told the story of Mr Beren and other children of American soldiers stationed in Pacific Islands and New Zealand during World War 2.

As soon as he heard about the research project he wanted to make it into a film.

''In 2010, I ran into Judy [Bennett] by chance in the national museum of Vanuatu, where we were both doing some work.

''She told me about the ... research project. I immediately got very excited and said 'How would you like to make a film?''' he said.

Prof Bennett said it felt ''fantastic'' to see the product of her research on film and believed it told a story everyone could connect with.

vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

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