Italian director denied entry to finish Karamea documentary

By Aimee van der Weyden

Marco Gianstefani chose Karamea as the place to make a documentary about sustainable living. Photo / Margaret Walford
Marco Gianstefani chose Karamea as the place to make a documentary about sustainable living. Photo / Margaret Walford

The foreign director of a documentary film about Karamea is unable to return to finish filming because he was deported at Auckland Airport.

Marco Gianstefani from Milan, Italy, spent two months in Karamea in April and May, 2014. He filmed the township and interviewed its people - in particular those involved in the Living in Peace Project, founded by local man Paul Murray.

Mr Gianstefani had planned to return to Karamea last month to gather more footage and complete the film, Mr Murray said.

He went to Perth to fly to Auckland, but because he hadn't purchased a return ticket wasn't able to enter New Zealand. He then bought a return ticket and boarded the flight to Auckland as planned, Mr Murray said.

"That must have set off some kind of a red flag at immigration."

When Mr Gianstefani landed in Auckland he was sidelined by an immigration official and "interrogated" for five hours.

Mr Gianstefani was tired and English was his second language, so during the interrogation he mistakenly told officers he was a WWOOFer (Willing Worker on Organic Farms). "That was totally the wrong thing to say because of course he didn't have a working visa," Mr Murray said.

Immigration then "booted" Mr Gianstefani out of the country.

KARAMEA - Is this the end of the road? from Marco Gianstefani on Vimeo.

"He's now in Melbourne, working on the film and working on promoting the film, waiting to try and get back into New Zealand."

Mr Gianstefani had hired a lawyer, and he and Mr Murray were seeking help from Buller Mayor Garry Howard and West Coast/Tasman MP Damien O'Connor to try and overcome the immigration barrier.

"It's a total misunderstanding," Mr Murray said.

Resident artist

In early 2014, Mr Gianstefani was a guest at Karamea's Rongo Backpackers, owned by Mr Murray.

Over dinner one night, he told Mr Murray he'd been travelling around the world looking for a place to make a documentary film about sustainable living, Mr Murray said.

"He found that Karamea was the place he wanted to do that. It was pretty exciting for us."

Mr Murray invited Mr Gianstefani back as a resident artist and gave him free accommodation for two months.

Filming took place around the time of Cyclone Ita - Easter 2014, Mr Murray said.

"He took about 500 hours of footage, interviewing people associated with what we're doing [the Living in Peace Project] and also other local people."

The Living in Peace Project, which aims to incorporate art, travel, permaculture and education into a sustainable business, had peaked Mr Gianstefani's interest initially, Mr Murray said.

Mr Gianstefani then discovered how interesting the wider Karamea community was.
"It's very much about Karamea more than the Living in Peace Project ... I guess we're the main protagonists in the story," Mr Murray said.

After filming, Mr Gianstefani returned to Milan to start the "enormous process" of turning the footage into an 80-90 minute film.

Mr Gianstefani had "quite large aspirations" for the film, Mr Murray said. "He has mentioned that he'd like to put it in the Sundance Film Festival."

Mr Gianstefani was, at one time, the creative director for the largest advertising agency in Italy. "He's a seriously talented guy," Mr Murray said.

Not everyone pleased

Karamea dairy farmer Brian Jones was interviewed for the film. Mr Gianstefani asked him questions about his occupation and what he thought of Mr Murray and the Living in Peace Project, he said.

He believed the film would have a strong focus on Mr Murray and his enterprise, however, it was hard to know for sure. "I don't think anyone quite knows what the complete product is yet."

A few locals would no doubt be "disappointed" with how the film portrayed Karamea, he said.

"We are a fairly diverse community up here ... I don't think you'd ever get 50 per cent of the community to agree on anything."

The film had the potential to attract more tourism to Karamea, however, it wouldn't be mainstream tourism, Mr Jones said. The majority of tourists would likely be those seeking/living an alternate lifestyle.

- Westport News

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