Ever the Land: A People, A Place, Their Building documentary

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<em>Ever the Land</em> documentary focuses on the relationship between the Tūhoe people and their land, and how this is manifested in their building.

Ever the Land documentary focuses on the relationship between the Tūhoe people and their land, and how this is manifested in their building. Image: Supplied

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Direct cinema that provides a fascinating insight into the lives of Ngai Tūhoe communities.

Direct cinema that provides a fascinating insight into the lives of Ngai Tūhoe communities. Image: Supplied

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Grohnert became an integral part of the Tūhoe community for three years while shooting the documentary.

Grohnert became an integral part of the Tūhoe community for three years while shooting the documentary. Image: Supplied

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Te Uru Taumatua sets new standards for both seismic and environmental practices; it is also New Zealand’s first accredited 'Living Building’.

Te Uru Taumatua sets new standards for both seismic and environmental practices; it is also New Zealand’s first accredited ‘Living Building’. Image: Supplied

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Ngai Tūhoe’s Te Uru Taumatua whare is the southern hemisphere’s first living building constructed to meet the Living Building Challenge (LBC) criteria, which aims to build regenerative environmental design and buildings with a focus on site, water, energy, health, materials, equity and beauty. 

The three year architectural undertaking to build sustainably with as little effect on the environment as possible was undertaken by the late master of New Zealand architecture, Ivan Mercep of Jasmax and construction company Arrow International, and was captured on film for the feature observational documentary entitled Ever The Land: A People, A Place, Their Building by Sarah Grohnert.

Filmed almost exclusively by Grohnert herself, the idea for the film and overall production was in a tight creative collaboration with producer Alexander Behse from Monsoon Pictures International. The documentary is representative of Ngai Tūhoe’s relationship to the land and while ostensibly a film about the making of an important building, it ended up turning out somewhat different:

“What started out as a documentary about architecture, quickly turned into an immersive experience of real life that is deeply human, spontaneous and involving. The intention with the film is to provide an open invitation to discover and rediscover our own sense of connection with ourselves, each other and the land that sustains us,” says Grohnert.

She continues, “The building Te Uru Taumatua is the binding character in this observational documentary. I know audiences are used to having people as main characters yet in this film the building is something of a marriage of characters, it is a celebration of land and people. The fact that this building isn’t just a building but a Living Building, designed and constructed to the standards of the international Living Building Challenge, is that key to that relationship.”

Ivan Mercep’s involvement as the lead architect for the project is particularly significant, Grohnert says. “I find it very humbling, and perhaps it is appropriate to consider the building as a kind of reconciliation of a complicated cultural conversation. Ivan had a huge part to play in that. He was known to be an exquisite listener, very sensitive to the needs of his clients and I think he knew how to embrace and honour the trust and faith that Tūhoe put in him.”

Ever The Land will have its world premiere at the New Zealand International Film Festival in Auckland on Saturday 18 July 2015. The premiere showing has already sold out.

Film Festival screenings are:

Auckland 
Sat 18 July 5:00 pm - SkyCity (sold out)
Tue 21 July 3:45 pm - SkyCity

Wellington 
Tue 28 July 6:15 pm - Te Papa
Wed 29 July 11:30 am - Paramount


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