At times The Price of Peace sits awkwardly between a modern day biopic, centralized around the stout, yet interesting, Tame Iti, and a history lesson in the foregone events of Tuhoe’s past. While it could be seen as an expose of sorts, the journalistic revisiting of 2007’s events fail to delve below the skin on either topic leaving audiences wishing there was more flesh to chew on regarding the raids themselves which are glossed over in early scenes with hidden cctv type footage. The entire build up to, and immediate aftermath of, the Tuhoe ‘terror’ camps and subsequent raids are neatly wrapped up in the first fifteen minutes only to be touched upon vaguely by sobbing relatives later on.
This footage, and the raids themselves, are the most captivating part of the doco – answering the question “what ever happened about all that terror hu-flah back in 2007?” Not much. Out of the so-called terrorists-in-training only four stood trial, two were sentenced, and even then Tame Iti only served 9 months in prison out of, what was reduced to, 30 months incarceration. People with driving convictions have been dealt more jail time and they hardly rival the media frenzy which has simmered away on the above topic for over seven years.
Had the police overreacted to circumstantial evidence in the wake of rising global terror after 9/11? Were the New Zealand authorities stressing out as much as other worldwide agencies at the time about the possibility of terrorists conspiring against the system on home grown soil? One of Tame Iti’s fellow Tuhoe activists claims all the covert bush training was for those wanting to take up opportunities as private security contractors in Afghanistan – an excuse so paper thin it doesn’t even look convincing dribbling out of a key witness’ mouth while on the stand. Stacking the facts together, viewers can form a picture of the following: An indigenous community, calling themselves a ‘nation’, some of whom, since birth, had been ingrained with the concept of the ‘stolen lands’, and who seemed to be drifting further away from effective communications and negotiations with the crown, suddenly started accruing weapons and training with those weapons for what could have been a potential war with the government, or at the very least an assassination attempt on John Key. The last two points are speculative, but not entirely improbable considering the motive existed for something of such a scale. In one of the street rallies a supporter can be seen shaking a sign reading death to John, or something similar, which feels eerily pre-meditative, and somehow practical, considering how small a country New Zealand really is.
By the closing frames, set back in the nonchalant Tuhoe, viewers are left with the sense that the entire saga has been ‘much ado about nothing’. The crisp camera work captures New Zealand’s environmental beauty on film, yet again, whilst the children riding horses bareback down the road and the large family feasts help contextualize the community-as-family concept many Tuhoe residents embrace. The slow moving low-angle sweeps of native New Zealand forests and the misty mountain vistas that comprise the Urewera ranges help punctuate each chapter of the story as it progresses back and forth between the high court in central Auckland and the rural Tuhoe nation. More central than Tame Iti and his mokos is the gracious, clean, punctuating voiceover, largely in Te Reo Maori, which is ruggedly elegant in its properly pronounced form.
Watchable for those seeking context on the terror raids of 2007, or Herald readers who may find the topic of general interest, TPOP floats gently across the screen full of rich, native culture and natural characters that seem oblivious to the camera crew filming from a distance – only these cameras aren’t hiding in the trees.
Reviewed by Nicholas Brookland.