Famous New Zealand actor attends film fest
March 21, 2012 at 10 p.m.
Updated March 21, 2012 at 10:22 p.m.
Peter Karena is unmoved by the fact he is famous in his New Zealand community of Ruahine. His rise to fame stemmed from a documentary he appeared in that captures a bitter, four-year-conflict with his adopted father over his family's land, while remaining true to his family and values.
The documentary camera crews were able to tap into the close-knit Karena family, including their 50 horses. And Karena's remote lifestyle snared the hearts of film fanatics around the world.
"This Way of Life," the documentary, was featured in Vancouver, Canada; Seattle, Wash.; Los Angeles, Calif.; and New York, N.Y., and the 38-year-old Australia native was convinced that he had to make his film debut at the first Victoria TX Independent Film Festival.
Karena and his son flew 28 hours and boarded three planes just to come to the Crossroads to promote the festival. Anthony Pedone, the film festival's executive director, had persuaded Karena to come but horses had a lot to do with it.
However, parts of the documentary made Karena cringe as he had to re-live the loss of his child to a miscarriage and his home. "Those were the hardest four years of my life," Karena said.
Although Karena's film was featured in other festivals, Pedone said his story is relevant and relatable on a universal level.
"There's a real beauty in the struggle," Pedone said. "It speaks so much about survival."
The true-to-life tale will help start the four-day film festival, which will include other documentaries, short films and features to suit a variety of tastes. Pedone said he wanted to create a cultural exchange in Victoria, and it looks like he may do that. Actors, directors and jurors have flown in from parts of Europe and the United States to make the inaugural event a success.
Some film actors, producers and directors, including the Karena documentary, will even do Q-and-A sessions after the features, so the audience can be included in the experience.
There will be close to 40 films shown at Theatre Victoria in the Leo J. Welder Center for the Performing Arts and at the Victoria College. All-access wristbands and daily passes are available for purchase.
Pedone hopes the New Zealand film will engage the audience so much that its members will reflect inwardly on their own lives. "You're not questioning anything, but asking where do I fit into this struggle," Pedone said.
Llewelyn Karena said it's surreal to see his six-year-old self in the documentary. He is now 14.
"It's pretty weird watching myself," he said. Llewelyn wanted to travel to the United States with his father. Getting out of school for one week was an added bonus.
The father-son duo is looking forward to learning about Texas life. Texas rancher Bill Murphy offered to host the New Zealand family to enhance their international experience.
"I'll try to help out however I can and do want they want to do," Murphy said.
Murphy said he hasn't seen the documentary, but he bonded with the unassuming star because of their shared love of horses.
Peter Karena's fascination with Palominos was the catalyst to the film project. Years later, the horse-whisperer has shied away from the limelight. It wasn't his intention to become famous or rich. In fact, his life is fundamentally the same.
He's seen the movie in its entirety twice and never spoken publicly about it until the eve of the Crossroads fest.
Karena said the film will serve to inspire others.
"I hope it does a lot of people good and they come away wanting to be better."