Short of The Week- Loading Docs 2017




By Paul Hunter

Loading Docs has just released their fourth season of documentary short films as part of their ongoing initiative to develop and promote New Zealand’s filmmaking talent. An annual anthology we always look forward to being released, the films not only help nourish up-and-coming filmmakers from New Zealand, but provide a fascinating, insightful snapshot of the country and its inhabitants. Acting almost like a Film Board in their development and distribution of shorts focused on key issues in the culture and society of NZ, initiatives like this continue to play a vital role in the short film arena, helping filmmakers not only get their stories made, but equally importantly…seen.

We’ve featured a few of their films (Wilbur ForceLiving like KingsThe Jump) in previous years, and remain a big fan of their goals and achievements. The ten films for 2017 are all centered around the theme of ‘diversity’. Featuring stories of sex, death, love, loss, hope, friendship, culture and identity, the 10 short films range from the gloriously colorful and am-dram world of preparing for one’s impending death, through to a man and his dog working to save the Kea (New Zealand’s alpine parrot). They are all worth a look, and since they all clock in at around 3 minutes, they are perfectly suited for online viewing in our time-poor world! You can see them all on the Loading Docs website, but if you allow me, here are a few to get you started:

Surreal Estate
 Director: Usrusla Williams

150611 Lawrence Smith/Fairfax Media
Artist John Radford has built a collection of miniature weatherboard homes similar to the ones that used to be located in the valley behind the photograph and where currently three motorway underpasses travel through central Auckland.

An artist and his real-estate agent alter ego clash over the age-old problem of art versus commerce. Renowned New Zealand artist John Radford represents both sides of the conflict that exists within all of those creating art, but also having to find a way to put food on the table in this amusing but insightful documentary around Radford’s GRAFT project. As lovers of short film, I’m sure I don’t need to say why this one struck a chord with us.

Luckie Strike
Director: Melissa Nickerson

Hundreds of meters below the earth’s surface, Mike and Dave struggle to discover a new entrance into one of New Zealand’s most spectacular caves. The film looks fantastic, and the physical struggles endured to make it certainly payoff, but ironically for a film with such great natural beauty, it is the charismatic banter between the two spelunkers that give the film that extra bit of charm that will leave you smiling, and almost convince you that crawling through small muddy holes would make for a good weekend.


The Coffin Club
Director: Briar March

A group of rebellious, creative Kiwi seniors give death the finger, one crazy coffin at a time. In different hands, the story of a collective of seniors toiling away at making their own personalized coffins could have been quite a morbid affair. Nothing could be further from that than this wonderfully colorful am-dram docu-musical, featuring the truly unique members of the Kiwi Coffin Club who prepare for their deaths by fully embracing life!

East Meets East
Director: Julie Zhu

The honest musings of a Chinese grandmother brings an unseen community into the spotlight. We spend the day with 79-year-old Fang Ruzhen, who came to New Zealand to help raise her grandchildren. Through her we join a community which is at once wholly foreign, but yet very much part of their communities and family. The film manages to balance the conflict between this lack of full integration, and the universal themes of family, sacrifice, and community.


Wilbur Force

SOTW-Laurels-NameLET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE!! Weighing in at 3mins & 30secs and coming straight out of the Loading Docs stable, J.Ollie Lucks’ high-tempo short Wilbur Force is a heavyweight example of just how much fun you can pack into such a tight duration. Piledriving his camera into the face of ex-pro-wrestling star and friend Wilbur Force, director Lucks has created a hilarious, yet touching short that centres around themes of friendship and fame.

“What if the man I have become gets to meet the man I could have become.”

Created as part of the Loading Docs series, an initiative that produces short (3-minute) documentaries to help promote and develop New Zealand filmmaking talent, director Lucks admits the main inspiration behind by his short, was the desire to work with his friend. “I always wanted to make films with Wilbur”, he says, “it started out as a straight-up documentary about the challenges he deals with regarding his weight etc. But then life happened. Wilbur happened… and things took a different turn….I set out for the process of creating this documentary to help Wilbur get off his ass. And it totally worked…There is a saying that I like and want to address with this film: What if the man I have become gets to meet the man I could have become. Holding on to ones best self is so important but quite hard at times. We all know what it is like. Thereby this documentary is also about the importance of friendship in reminding you of your former, best self”.  Read more

The Jump, In 1980, With A Healthy Mix of Imagination, Balls and Roughly-Remembered Newtonian Physics, A Kiwi Bloke Jumped off a Bridge and Started a Worldwide Phenomenon

SOTW-Laurels-NameConfession: I’ve never been bungee-jumping — not from atop a bridge or even one of the more amateur heights you’d find at an amusement park — but I have often wondered who first conjured the idea, who the crazy loon was who first dared to tie a rope around their legs and leap from a deathly height, willing the cord to break his or her fall before smashing into the ground below. If, like me,  you’ve ever pondered who was crazy enough to invent such a thing, then allow me to introduce you to Chris Sigglekow. This “Kiwi bloke” who started the worldwide phenomenon of bungee-jumping is the subject of Alex Sutherland’s documentary, The Jump, created for New Zealand’s Loading Docs, an initiative posed to filmmakers to present a documentary subject in under three minutes. That’s no small task, but Sutherland was up for the challenge.  Read more