Te Wharehou o Tūhoe, New Zealand’s first and currently only “Living Building” stands at the centre of Sarah Grohnert’s portrait of Ngāi Tūhoe land and people, documenting the passage of time from the Iwi land claims, through settlement, Crown apologies and eventual funding, planning and construction of the project.
It opens quietly with mesmerisingly still camerawork which off-sets the frenetic work involved in construction.The style is observational, meditative; focusing on the awakening of people and land through this once-in-a-lifetime project. The cinematography gets as involved with the people as it does with the place, showing the true beauty of the surrounds against the tough times of its people – reflected by the Maori proverb meaning “The land is the blood of the people, the people are the face of the land.” There is trepidation expressed by Tūhoe to move forward on the project both out of fear for remembrance of the past and for the future inheritors of this space. However, with few dissenting voices about the project itself, there is not a lot of conflict central to the film aside from touching on the obvious legal battle with the state.
Should make a good companion-piece to The Price of Peace, screening elsewhere in the festival, which expands and similarly draws on the internal troubles of Tūhoe. This is straight essential documentation drenched in politics, beauty, passion and strength.