15 Feb 2010

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Kiwi Documentary Fills Houses at Berlin Film Festival

A small New Zealand documentary is having a big impact overseas, selling out all 1000-seat screenings at the Berlin Film Festival in just three days.

This Way of Life, about a Maori family from Hawke's Bay, is the only New Zealand documentary chosen to compete at the prestigious festival.

Shot over four years against the isolated Ruahine mountains and Waimarama beach, the film follows Peter and Colleen Karena as they raise their six children and 50 horses on the thin edge between freedom and disaster.

The Berlin Festival programme describes it as a film about "family life in New Zealand. Except that this is no ordinary family."

"It's almost as if the word 'risk' doesn't exist for them: barefoot, bareback and without reins or riding hat is for instance the way the Karena's six-year-old daughter gallops across the New Zealand prairie."

"Some people may think that the Karenas live a life of poverty. But this isn't true. This Way of Life is a film about freedom."

The message of a life lived outside a world of consumerism has resonated around the world, seeing the film also chosen for official selection at the Palm Springs International Festival, which sold out a week before showing, and screening to sell out houses at both the New Zealand and Vancouver International Film Festivals.

This unprecedented success for a self-funded independent film has been further enhanced by the securing of both European and New Zealand distribution.

This Way of Life is the second feature documentary for Hawke's Bay producer/director duo Barbara Sumner Burstyn and Tom Burstyn, and will begin its New Zealand run in cinemas around the country on March 11.

Follow their Berlin blog