Gaylene Barnes


Gaylene Barnes is a filmmaker and artist from Canterbury, New Zealand. Starting her career with a Diploma in Fine Arts, Barnes has crafted an extensive and creative body of work. Her work spans genres – from drama to documentary to experimental projects.

Barnes’ was production designer on several dramas, gaining a nomination at the 2000 NZ Film Awards for Scarfies. In 2005, she was nominated for Achievement in Editing at the New Zealand Screen Awards for Out of Sight Out of Mind. In 2017, she co-produced and co-directed the documentary Seven Rivers Walking Haere Mārire which screened at the NZ International Film Festival where it had the largest single-screening.

She has directed or edited several documentaries in her home town of Christchurch. These include directing The Grand PlanProject Fiftyone and as editor on Art of RecoveryWhen A City Rises, and We Are One: The Mosque Attacks One Year On.

Gaylene is also an exhibiting Artist and a Certified Organic Farmer.

Director’s Statement 

When the freedom convoy was first announced, in protest of the vaccine mandates and the vaccine certificates, I knew instantly that I had to film it and make a quality documentary.  I believe that forced medicalisation is a violation of human rights and medical freedom, it is immoral. I knew this was a very important story, and one that was being ignored and ridiculed by most other media. The planned 2-day convoy shoot morphed into 4-weeks of filming as the protest grew into one of the largest civil uprisings in New Zealand’s recent history.  

Joined by award-winning cinematographer, Mark Lapwood, we started the journey with the Freedom Convoy, from its hopeful beginning on 6 February 2022 – Mark was at Cape Reinga at the top of the North Island, while I went to Bluff at the bottom of the South Island. We met up with Producer Jared Connon in Wellington, who had brought his production trailer to use as our base. Other filmmakers arrived to offer their time, expertise and gear, thus a film collective was formed to document the protest until it’s traumatic end on Parliament’s lawn on 2 March 2022.

What impressed me most were the protestors. Many had suffered indignities and taken severe hits—loss of jobs or businesses, loss of friends or families, loss of health or status—yet they responded with love, compassion, humour, resilience and an acknowledgement of the importance of community, spirituality, and connection.

During post-production we launched a crowd-funding campaign to raise money as we are unable to easily access the usual sources of government sponsored funding. The incredible support we received from thousands of ordinary New Zealanders was truly humbling and brought back faith in our common humanity.


With Paul Brennan on Reality Check Radio On How The Release Of The Doco ’River Of Freedom’ Is Going – 19 September 2023

In discussion with Jonathan Ayling on the Free Speech Union podcast – 8 September 2023

With Peter Williams on Reality Check Radio- 4 September 2023

In conversation with Chris Lynch Christchurch’s Newsroom- 2 September 2023