Fools & Dreamers: Regenerating a Native Forest

About the film

“Fools and Dreamers tells the most important story of our time.”
Paul Hawken, founder Project Drawdown

“Watch this natural Kiwi miracle: how the earth regenerates native bush if given half a chance.”
Bunny McDiarmid, Executive Director Greenpeace International

Fools & Dreamers is a 30-minute documentary telling the story of Hinewai Nature Reserve, on Canterbury’s Banks Peninsula, and its kaitiaki/manager of 30 years, botanist Hugh Wilson. We learn about the commitment of Hugh and the Maurice White Native Forest Trust to regenerate marginal, hilly farmland into native forest, using a minimal interference method that allows nature to do the work, giving life to over 1500 hectares of native forest, waterways, and the creatures that live within them.

When, in 1987, Hugh let the local community know about his plans to allow gorse to grow as a nurse canopy for self-sown native trees, the response was sceptical at best and outright angry and disparaging for the most part – one farmer stating the plan was the sort to be expected only of “fools and dreamers”. Now considered a local hero by town and country folk alike, Hugh’s home at Hinewai overlooks a valley resplendent in native forest canopy, where birds and other wildlife are abundant and 47 known waterfalls are in permanent flow.

An inspiring, charismatic personality, Hugh’s passion and enthusiasm for his life’s project come through in every sentence he speaks. A dreamer who has made his dream come true, Hugh has proven without doubt that nature knows best – and that he is no fool.


“Regenerating human rights can learn from nature: it takes ‘Fools and Dreamers’ to give life a chance….”
– a personal message from Kumi Naidoo, Secretary General of Amnesty International

“Jean Giono’s allegorical tale, ‘The Man Who Planted Trees’ has been enjoyed by readers all around the world for more than 65 years. Fools & Dreamers is a modern-day equivalent, about a man called Hugh Wilson who didn’t actually plant trees, but who is successfully regenerating New Zealand native bush on the Banks Peninsula in the South Island – ‘from the summit to the sea’. This is a gentle, inspirational story, capturing the spirit of both the place and the man, but serving at the same time as a powerful ‘call to action’ for all of us to heed.”
Jonathon Porritt, Forum for the Future

“This is an inspirational documentary. It reveals the benefits to be had personally and for humanity from walking (and biking) the talk about ecosystem restoration. It shows through a beautifully filmed example that restoring native biodiversity doesn’t require inputs like re-seeding or technology, rather it needs the halting of manipulation and artificial inputs. This lovingly managed hands-off approach shows how a badly damaged ecosystem could return to health and regain native biodiversity at a pace that has surprised both detractors and supporters. There are many fantastic ‘how-to’ restoration lessons built in to this story, revealing multiple gains for humans and nature. But at heart it is a very human story.”
Dr Mike Joy, freshwater ecologist

Online Release 28th July 2019!

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Pre-release Screening Tour

Thank you to our sponsors for helping make this tour happen!

Tour Schedule

CHRISTCHURCH: Worldwide Premiere + Q&A with Hugh Wilson and the directors
Where: Hollywood Cinema, Sumner, New Zealand
When: June 28th 2019, 6pm
Email us to add your name to the waiting list

AKAROA: screening + Q&A with Hugh Wilson and the directors
Where: Akaroa Cinema, Akaroa, New Zealand
When: June 30th 2019, 12pm; 2pm
Call Akaroa Cinema to add your name to a waiting list: 03-304-8898

PICTON: screening + Q&A with the directors
Where: Port Marlborough Pavillion, Picton
When: July 4th 2019, 6.30pm
Tickets: Eventbrite  |  Facebook Event

WELLINGTON: screening + Q&A with the directors & special guests
Where: Penthouse Cinema, 205 Ohiro Rd, Brooklyn, Wellington
When: July 5th 2019, 6pm OR 7.15pm (two screenings, back to back)
Tickets: Bookings through Penthouse Cinema  | Facebook Event (6pm) | Facebook Event (7.15pm)

NAPIER: screening + Q&A with the directors & special guests
Where: MTG, 1 Tennyson Street, Napier
When: July 7th, 5pm
Tickets: EventbriteFacebook Event (FREE event)

TAURANGA: screening + Q&A with the directors & special guests
Where: Historic Village Cinema, 17th Ave West, Tauranga
When: July 12th 2019, 6.30pm OR 8pm (two screenings back to back)
Tickets: Eventbrite | Facebook Event (6.30pm) |  Eventbrite | Facebook Event (8pm)

AUCKLAND: screening + Q&A with the directors & special guests
Where: Academy Cinema, 44 Lorne Street, Auckland
When: July 13th 2019, 8pm
Tickets: Eventbrite | Facebook Event

WHANGANUI: screening + Q&A with the directors & special guests
Where: Confluence, 15 Watt Street, Whanganui
When: July 25th 2019, 6.30pm
Tickets: Confluence | Facebook

CARTERTON: screening + Q&A with the directors & special guests
Where: Carterton Community Courthouse, 60 Holloway Street, Carterton
When: July 26th 2019, 7pm
Tickets: Eventbrite | Facebook Event

Many people have requested permission to hold a community screening following the official tour. We’ll add information here before July with details about how to do that. Watch this space!