Centenarian-plus trees are uprooted and transplanted across the sea to one man’s own Wonderland in this surreal, mesmerising and disquieting documentary, where breathtaking images and overheard conversations tell the tale.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2021
Once upon a time... there was a fabulously wealthy man who shall remain anonymous (a former prime minister of Georgia), whose hobby was to collect mature trees. He sent out his men to scour Georgia’s coastline in search of splendid specimens, in exchange for which new roads were paved – admittedly to permit tree transportation – or handsome sums paid – or at least, it’s a lot of money for the lucky villager who had the desired item in his back yard...
Transplanting ancient trees and their massive root systems intact, especially one that is fifteen-floors high, is understandably a mammoth undertaking. Captured in hypnotic still shots, the moving operation digs deep and wide, destroying many other trees and undermining the local habitat – flora, fauna and human – in the process. While some feel no regret, only wishing that their trees could have been chosen so they could get rich like their neighbours, others ponder the loss of their natural and communal heritage, and of collective memory with it. Interrupting their labour for a smoke, workmen speculate about the strange, unseen billionaire’s motives.
That magnificent tree’s surreal journey leads to a verdant paradise where nature is artfully maintained, blithe to the damage uprooting has left behind, somewhere far away. — Sandra Reid