Karamea - Is This the End of the Road?

by Marco Gianstefani
(Melbourne, Australia)

This is a documentary movie directed by Marco Gianstefani.
(Facebook trailer)

It is only a 3 to 4-hour drive from the nearest point of civilization as we know it, yet it could be another world. It is the town of Karamea, at the top of the West Coast of New Zealand’s southern island. And it’s a place where you can touch what could be the future for the rest of us.

There aren’t a lot of reasons to go there: either you are a travel-blog nerd, and you stumbled upon one of the few posts about it, or you’re a serious adventure walker with the will to walk the “Heaphy track,” a gorgeous scenic 4-day hiking trail with no shelter that ends up (or starts) in Karamea. Karamea pops up, literally, “at the end of the road.” It’s precisely 100 kilometres from the nearest town but is an island of a community surrounded by a beautiful, green and lush national park. So, do people really live here? Absolutely. And this is exactly where things get interesting.

As the documentary trailer for Karamea says, “Answers sometimes may be found where least expected.”

Changing the World

The Karamea documentary movie follows the inspiring journey of a bunch of modern-hippies that have made this community their home, attempting to “change the world” from one of the most remote places on Earth. They might be far away from mainstream civilization, but this community is tightly knit and passionate about living the way they choose to.

As we meet Karamea’s people, we realize that they’ve managed to live a little bit differently from the way most of us do.

Instead of just talking about problems, how the world is drifting away or the social theories and ecological systems to save it, they are putting in practice an actual process toward sustainability where everybody takes their part in this “there is another way to live” project.

This is not a community of old-fashioned hippies, and there are no communal rules that impose how to live and behave with others. Instead, there is private property, and an economic system based on exchange or barter (either it’s food or work) to cover the majority of people’s needs. With fewer places to use it, money is spent wisely and less frequently, leaving no room for conspicuous consumerism.

The pillars of the Karamea lifestyle are also renewable energies, organic agriculture and permaculture design, but it isn’t just about solar power, water supply tanks or “growing your own tomatoes.”

Quality over Quantity

It is merely a philosophy of “quality over quantity” that the people of Karamea practice in every aspect, following the sustainable living playbook their own way. And the results are staggering: prosperity, community, success, and that elusive goal of people in the modern world, happiness.

Karamea becomes a sort of social, economic and ecological experiment where people can touch what really means to live sustainably. It is such a compelling place that travellers who plan to pass through for a night end up staying for months or years, getting involved in the unpredictable vitality of the town.

This other way to live comes to life through the stories of those that created and are living this dream in Karamea: Is this the end of the road? In 2014, Marco Gianstefani and his crew shot the first part of the documentary, collecting content for a first trailer release and a crowdfunding campaign that was launched in early 2016.

To share this story with the world, the team is fundraising to complete the shooting and post-production process, and to create the original score so that Karamea can be presented in major international documentary festivals. By telling this fascinating story, we hope to show that the real, sustainable living of Karamea is far from the end of the road; it is just the beginning of it.

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