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Tararua trail film focuses on community

A documentary film that chronicles the history of an 80-kilometre hiking trail in the Tararua Range has won big in Canada.

Made by Wellington-based Andy Carruthers and Hans Weston, who are new to filmmaking, ‘Tararua S-K’ won the Best Human Interest Film at the recent Toronto Documentary Film Festival.

The movie’s release marks the 60th anniversary of when the 80km Schormann to Kaitoke route was first accomplished and intertwines cinematography, archival footage, and interviews with those who have completed it.

Carruthers, an avid trail runner who directed the film, said the main reason he made it “was to inspire people to go on adventures”.

He was introduced to the Tararua Range and the S-K through a trail running group in the Wellington region.

“Nine years ago, I met this incredible community of mountain runners where the Tararua is their playground,” he said.

“That’s where I heard about this incredible adventure.”

The win “brought tears to my eyes”, Carruthers said, because “people from the other side of the world were moved by the heart and spirit of our community”.

Ordinarily, the S-K is hiked over six days, which makes it hard to find an opportune weather window to complete it, he said

But there is also a weekend challenge that was created in the early ’60s that is done over two nights and is shown in the film.

“The original challenge was, you leave work on Friday at five o’clock to got to Eketāhuna, get the local guy to give you a ride down the road, and be out by Sunday night so you could be back at work for Monday morning.

“Revered and feared by many experienced trampers and mountain runners, this is the toughest challenge in the Tararuas.”

The film project took about 12 months to complete and has footage from over nine years of Carruthers’ “adventures” in the range.

The film contains both past and present participants, capturing their triumphs and setbacks in the rugged Tararua terrain.

One of New Zealand’s famed adventurers, Sir Graeme Dingle, shares his insights and experiences in the film, adding depth and authenticity to the wider narrative.

“The Tararua range is a priceless asset to Aotearoa, and the film, captures it perfectly,” Sir Graeme said.

“As for the people who run the length of the range, there is a touch of Forrest Gump in all of us.”

“The first thing I did when I got home last night was buy it and watch it again,” said camera operator Tim Sutton, who also features in the film and describes it as a “rich tapestry that brought the Tararua community together with loving care”.

The documentary begins screening on Air New Zealand’s in-flight entertainment in August.

    The 27-minute film can be rented or purchased on tararuask.com for $9.99 and $19.99,respectively.

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