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This Way of Life

CreativeCOW presents This Way of Life -- Cinematography Feature


Bay View, Hawkes Bay New Zealand
CreativeCOW.net. All rights reserved.


This Way of Life is a film about a family. Mum, Dad, six kids, 50 horses, a mountain, a beach and a burnt down house.

Shot over four years, against the backdrop of a remote New Zealand mountain range and a hidden beach camp, we explore Peter and Colleen Karena's connection to nature, their survival skills, and their intimacy with each other and their horses as they attempt to navigate the discord between Peter and his father.

Though European, Peter was adopted into a Maori family, and is Maori in all but skin. He is a horse-whisperer, philosopher, hunter, and builder, a husband and father. Despite seemingly overwhelming challenges, Peter refuses to compromise. Especially troubling to Peter is his broken relationship with his adopted father, a malevolent man who refuses to leave him alone.

We follow their family up into the Ruahine ranges and down to their hidden beach camp. We watch as Peter and Colleen, both in their early 30s, celebrate the birth of a child and cope with a late miscarriage. Their attempts to navigate the discord between Peter and his father culminate in the theft of Peter's valuable herd of horses and the burning of their beloved family home.

Now homeless, we watch as Peter steers his family toward a new way of living and being. Regardless of their hardships, the Karenas manage to never lose sight of the magic in the everyday.

The question everyone asks is: why? Why dedicate four years to make a "slice-of-life" documentary about a local family? It began with Peter Karena's incredible a malevolent man who refuses to leave him alone.

We follow their family up into the Ruahine ranges and down to their hidden beach camp. We watch as Peter and Colleen, both in their early 30s, celebrate the birth of a child and cope with a late miscarriage. Their attempts to navigate the discord between Peter and his father culminate in the theft of Peter's valuable herd of horses and the burning of their beloved family home.


Riding into the heavens
Riding into the heavens


Now homeless, we watch as Peter steers his family toward a new way of living and being. Regardless of their hardships, the Karenas manage to never lose sight of the magic in the everyday.

The question everyone asks is: why? Why dedicate four years to make a "slice-of-life" documentary about a local family? It began with Peter Karena's incredible horsemanship. We knew that the magical relationship he had with horses was unique, and we quickly formulated a plan to produce a little instructional DVD on how to break in a horse.

It was to be a casual thing, fitting around Tom's day job as a cinematographer. But the minute we turned on the camera, it was obvious that Peter had something: a presence, a way of ignoring the camera and engaging with it at the same time. However, it would be almost a year of shooting before we realised that the DVD had turned into a real film, about a real family, and their remarkable way of life.

Perhaps because of the long shoot, the film is characterised by an intimacy, not only with the camera, but also clearly with us as filmmakers as well. For example, for the first year, Colleen would quietly turn away whenever we arrived with the camera. She was kind and polite, but very clear that she did not want to be on film. Then, one day we called her to test the water. Something had shifted. Sure, she said, come on over.

It was at this point, almost a year into the process, when we realised that, while we had been observing the Karena family, the Karenas -- and especially Colleen -- had been watching us.

I understood then that we had entered a type of contract not covered by law, or by the usual dictates of documentary filmmaking. This could not be a portrait from the outside. We had to be on board with all elements of our lives or nothing.

And of course, as filmmakers, this was where we were most challenged. There is an expectation of purity in documentary making, that there is an absolute truth, and if the filmmaker can just find a position of sufficient height to both observe intimately and not be observed, they will capture that truth.



Comments

Re: This Way of Life
by David Downie
One thing that wasn't touched on was how this family paid their bills. Are they on welfare?
Re: This Way of Life
by Rose O'Connor
I can't wait to watch this film! I hope it is coming to Australia soon. This article just inspired me no end - you guys seem to be making just the kind of films I want to watch and one day to make! Thank you for producing some great NZ films - I hadn't realised you were also the makers of One Man, One Cow, One Planet. I will be following Cloud South Films from now on.


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