Peter Karena, his wife Colleen, their six children and many horses live almost wild in the stunning beauty of New Zealand's rugged Ruahine Mountains. Until, that is, Peter's escalating battle with his own father has profound consequences for the whole clan. Written by
Palm Springs International Film Festival
The iconic image of a ruggedly handsome man atop an equally impressive steed ~ rearing up between dappled grassland and dazzling sky, mane and tail lashing in all directions ~ tells us some essentials about THIS WAY OF LIFE, the sterling documentary it advertises.
It tells us, in a glance, that the man in question is capable and seasoned, outdoorsy and independent, the sort of man who can probably fish and hunt, read the land and weather, wrangle wild horses and build their corrals ~ living as best he can outside any deadening constraints of Western civilization. And all of this proves to be true.
What this image doesn't disclose is that what we actually have here is an inverted and updated Trojan Horse, in the best possible sense of the term. Instead of being the predictable tale of a Lone Ranger, THIS WAY OF LIFE reveals that the rider, Peter Karena of Aoetoara/New Zealand, is a man for whom marriage and family are of paramount value. The question this story poses is ~ can he secure his beautiful, growing, and beloved brood a home, with his integrity intact? Opposition to this dream resides closer than even the usual social, political and economic demands that erode the likelihood of obtaining freedom in this day and age. For Peter is the chosen enemy of a stepfather who still operates out of the worst possible facets of the old Patriarchal paradigm: the will to be divisive, destructive and, above all, domineering.
Ultimately this apparently modest slice of life, via deft story-telling, provides an arc of development which applies not only to one family in the back of beyond, but engages entire cultural gears: our shared longing to deconstruct an old model which is abusive of far too many and to supplant it with one of our own making. As our rigged economic system and oppression by corporatocracy collapses, THIS WAY OF LIFE becomes an option that feels vital and venerable rather than quaint or exotic.
I want to wrap up this review with highest praise: by the time the credits rolled, I was left feeling, in a quiet yet indelible way, that these beautiful people are necessary to our way of life, as they display our participation in nature, and demonstrate that the personal is universal. May their message radiate worldwide.
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