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Friday 26 June 2020 11:45am

Here's a gem – the short documentary film 'The Dental Reunion', featuring Otago dental graduates from the class of 1950, received its world premiere on 12 June at the Documentary Edge Festival 2020.

First-time producer Celia Grace, who is based in the UK, had the idea for the film after accompanying her dad Darrell Grace to one of the reunions. Celia, a lawyer, is Chief Operating Officer for a barristers' chambers in London.

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Darrell Grace (left), father of producer Celia Grace.

“I come and visit every year, and I timed it one time so I could take him to the reunion. It was really quite special, and I came back home and talked to my husband and said we should make a short film about this.”

With the help of her friend Tina Cleary, a New Zealand casting director, actor and film-maker who co-produced the documentary, Celia prepared a treatment for the film. They then took it to award-winning Kiwi director Michelle Savill, who got on board with the project and brought in the crew to make it happen.

The 15-minute film follows the group of dentists, now well into their 90s, as they meet in Taupo in 2017. Some of the class trained as dentists after fighting in WWII, and their first reunion was in 1980.

The Dental Reunion Trailer from Michelle Savill on Vimeo.

Celia describes it as a “bittersweet”, gentle observational film. “It celebrates the endurance of friendship amidst the challenges of old age,” she says.

“I was struck by the deep friendship of this small group of increasingly frail men, and their ability to have so much fun. I felt that there was a special story that was worth sharing. Plus, there were a lot of dentist jokes.”

“It became so important to them, they have this friendship that goes back to when they were young men at Otago.”

While they were initially a little nervous, once filming got underway Celia says the group relaxed and had a lot of fun with the crew.

Tina says they were lucky Michelle said yes to coming on board. Michelle tells cinematic stories about the human condition, and her short film Ellen is Leaving won Best Narrative Short Film at the SXSW Film Festival and the San Francisco Film Festival.

Michelle says when she was little she wanted to be a dentist. “So the chance to hang out with some while doing what I love – directing – was fun. I'm really glad dental work has progressed so much since the 1950s!”

The 15th Documentary Edge Festival 2020 runs from 12 June – 5 July. The Dental Reunion is one of a series of short films available to view online for free during the festival. For more information visit

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