This Way of Life
Cloud South Films’ documentary, This Way of Life, presents one kiwi family whose quest is to love well, which often means living on little. The Karena Family – Peter, Collen and their six children have in most ways opted out of society – food comes from hunting, children are taught right from wrong and then raise each other in immense freedom and there is no sign of a traditional income. It’s blissful material poverty and richness of relationships.
All this however, is interrupted when an extended family breakdown causes them to lose the house they live in, leading to conflict and tragedy. Peter’s worsening relationship with his father is set against the deep bound of love he shares with his own eldest son, Llewelyn, and it’s the Karena family relationships which stay at the heart of the film.
Any commentary is by Llewelyn and throughout the documentary the filmmakers, cinematographer Tom Burstyn and journalist Barbara Sumner Burstyn, allow the family to tell their own story. It’s because of this we can believe the Karena’s that joy can be found in having next to nothing. As the Burstyn’s say about the film;
“This Way of Life captures a way of life and a consciousness that has almost disappeared, a life where self-sufficiency is central, where time is not money. This Way of Life encompasses an understanding of a tangible relationship with nature and natural morality – unframed by regulation or compromise.”
Over four years the documentary shows the rises and falls in the Karena’s fortunes. Through it all Colleen shows a gentle optimism, Peter an honest desire to do right by his family and the children an innocent delight in life. Sometimes their disregard of the way the rest of us live leads directly to trouble (Peter has unlicensed guns removed by the police and a seemingly naive housing arrangement with his father) and I’m glad these moments make it into the film because it keeps it hinged – stopping it for being an over romantic view of the life many of us want to live but feel too sensible to go through with.
If the family is the heart of the film the beauty of the film is New Zealand itself. Filmed in Omahu, Waimarama, the Ruahine Ranges and the Hawkes Bay region, we often follow Peter into the mountains where he owns horses which run wild during the year before he rounds them up to break in new foals and mourn old friends who didn’t make it through the winter.
I would wager that this is not a film about your life, which is part of the pleasure of watching it, but there are themes which can be universally applied even if at the end you aren’t rushing to escape yourself into blissful poverty.
Reviewed by: Elizabeth
Length: 1 hour 25 minutes
Country: New Zealand
Production: Cloud South Films, Tom Burstyn and Barbara Sumner Burstyn