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Ever The Land

Tricia Love (left) + Sarah Grohnert

Tricia Love (left) + Sarah Grohnert

If you’re a yogi, a pretty nice human being and you’re here I’m going to make a big call and suggest you care about the environment, our land and about our people.

This is why we’re friends.

And although the International Film Festival’s been and gone in Auckland, there was a documentary I saw that’s stuck in my head in the best possible way and is now showing at cinemas nationwide that I think you should see. It’s both a film about a building project and the people it was being built for, and a story of beauty, love and connection.

Ever The Land deserves attention and audiences galore.

German-born filmmaker Sarah Grohnert set out to explore the first Living Building Challenge (LBC) in the Southern Hemisphere. The three-year project Te Uru Taumatua was commissioned by Ngai Tuhoe and led by the late architect Ivan Mercep. It needed a commitment from all involved to meet the stringent requirements of the build as the criteria for a Living Build has no room for negotiation. Every subcategory, of which there are many, must meet the stringent requirements. (A summary of the challenge and how it was incorporated into the Tuhoe build is here.)

I’d met Sarah and Tricia Love, Director of Tricia Love Consultants, before I saw the film and their passion and care for the building, the documentary in its entirety and the Tuhoe people shone through.

It is a big, bold project to build sustainably with as little effect on the environment as possible. As Tricia explained, the idea is to change the ethos from doing enough only to do the least amount of damage to the environment and instead get to the point of regenerative design and building. She said that first and foremost philosophy is the driving force behind the LBC. (With the main categories presented as flower petals and ‘beauty and spirit’ listed as imperatives this could mean a whole new lingo for building sites.)

For Tuhoe, Te Uru Taumatua is a symbol of their relationship with the land. More than just an admin building, it marks a new beginning, an opportunity to move forward, and was developed with the next generations in mind.

Built with local materials such as handmade mud bricks and floorboards cut from 400 year-old native timber, the project opened up jobs for the community with the resulting building knowledge secured as a blueprint for future reference.

“Ultimately, “ said Tricia, “Tuhoe connected with the building philosophy because they are responsible guardians of the land. They understood the bigger picture. Now a seed has been planted and this, we believe, will become the new norm.”

“As the building began to unfurl everyone felt changed. When you’ve watched and worked on centuries old trees fished out of the river to be cut into stunning Matai floors, it’s hard to walk on them and not feel different. “ – Tricia Love

The film draws on beautiful images to capture the underlying essence of the film, the profound connection that ties Tuhoe to the land and the land to Tuhoe.

Sarah’s approach is honest and immersive. She uses simplicity – no music, no narration – to portray much, much more than the accolade-worthy build. For three years she captured intimate details of Tuhoe, including the historic moment when in 2014 Te Urewera, Tuhoe’s ancestral homelands were returned along with an official apology from the New Zealand Government.

“What started out as a documentary about architecture, quickly turned into a 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 Sarah.

“I often went bush as I got to know and get close to the people in the community… and the story got bigger and bigger and it became so much more than a building. One day something just clicked and I thought here is the film.” – Sarah Grohnert

It is a tribute to the Tuhoe people and left a strong impression as evidenced following the film. People, including Tuhoe who’d made the trek to the premiere, carefully and respectfully thanked Sarah for her testament to the environment, her openness in wanting to know the community without prejudice or previous knowledge, of showing acceptance and empathy that we often find missing in our own portrayals.

Sometimes, it seems, it takes fresh eyes to help us see ourselves from the inside out.

If you get a chance to see this beautiful film, then please do. It shines.

– Jane

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Many thanks to the fabulous ecostore for the invitation to their #GoodStuff event where I was able to meet Sarah and Tricia. As always, they bring together the best sorts of people.

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© The Yoga Connection 2015

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