Facing political exile, a former National MP joins forces with a Covid conspiracy theorist to form a new party and run for parliament. And invites a documentary crew along for the ride.
The Jami-Lee Ross vs Simon Bridges saga is one of the most explosive in New Zealand political history. If you somehow missed it, which seems impossible, here’s a brief recap: it involved Ross, then a high profile figure within the National Party, trying to bring down Bridges, who at the time was National Party leader, by leaking private recordings of conversations and making allegations that Bridges had knowingly been involved in fraud.
While Bridges may have been the target, Ross ultimately ended up scoring a spectacular own goal. Not only was he ousted from his own party and relegated to the political wilderness as an independent MP, but he kicked off a multi-year legal dispute that brought with it the very real prospect of a prison sentence.
Elements of Truth, a new documentary directed by Tony Sutorius (Campaign), follows Ross in the final days of his political exile and as he vies to return to parliament after the election in late 2020. By this stage he’s no longer a National MP, and has joined forces with rising conspiracy theorist Billy Te Kahika Jr to found a new political party, Advance NZ. With the developing threat of Covid-19 bolstering both Te Kahika and Ross’s profiles in misinformation circles, the former National whip thinks he has a real chance of making it back to parliament. But while Ross tries to maintain that Advance NZ is a serious political venture, his alliance with Te Kahika sees him become even more of a political outcast.
With exclusive access to Ross’ election campaign, Elements of Truth provides new insight into the former MP – as a politician, a father and a personality. It takes us behind the scenes on the campaign trail as Ross watches the election night results roll in – and as he has to break the news to Te Kahika that the pair won’t be heading to parliament. Most insightfully, the documentary reveals how much Ross actually aligned with his own co-leader’s misinformed perspectives on the pandemic and goes behind the scenes of the now infamous post-election interview Ross gave to journalist Tova O’Brien – an interview that went viral in the days after the election.
Elements of Truth was made with support from NZ On Air.