Occasionally here I review audio/visual movies and whilst this doesn’t quite fit the mould that I review, Bruce Parry’s Tawai holds the same space as those contemplative works.
Bruce Parry for over a decade has created some fascinating exploration TV series, living with often indigenous or unusual tribes. The last tribe he visited was the Panam, Parry resonated with and so he returns to them as they decide to settle down for the very first time in their history in one place – rather than be nomadic. The film isn’t limited to this though, as there is an overarching narrative of reconnecting to the natural world around us and an environmental one that speaks of the cause and effect of one’s actions on a global ecological scale.
The film see’s Parry visit several places as he searches for guidance on how to be mentally more connected to the natural world and how that may be able to open up the industrial world to the effects of agriculture. Some of it feels very abstract and the pace of the film itself is slow, monotone and quite meditative. There are some beautiful sweeping drone shots of worldly vistas and tribes in action – and at times Tawai feels like a guided meditation.
It’s when the film gets into the more cerebral and emotional brain side of things that Parry’s message becomes a bit muddied. There are lots of messages he wants to pass on, but the way how they interconnect isn’t highlighted particularly well. Tawai makes you work to connect the dots yourself, and if you do connect the dots, you’re probably already looking at ways to support the developing world sustain their natural resources. If you don’t connect the dots, you’ll walk away thinking that’s two hours of tree-hugging that may have been entertaining but not mind-altering. The key to the film is Parry’s instant likeability and the way how he goes full steam into being part of a tribal family – including some of the rituals they take on as shown in the superb extra 25 minutes of content on the DVD which is more in line with the Tribe TV show he became famous for.
I personally found Tawai fascinating although I would have preferred to spend more time connecting the dots between the various subjects and thoughts Bruce discussed. It gets bogged down a little in the science of telling rather than showing – but it certainly has made me think and stayed on my mind long after viewing. Add in some beautiful landscape shots and a warm ambient soundtrack – and its a meditative call for a more rounded approach to agriculture and preservation.