Short of the Week

Living Like Kings

The Christchurch Earthquake left the majority of its population devastated, but for a small group of homeless people, disaster brought about new and luxurious living opportunities—a taste of what it’s like to live like a king.

Having visited Christchurch a year after the devastating 2011 Earthquake, I was astounded by by the destruction I found. Even 12 month’s later, New Zealand’s second largest city was still struggling to recover. But, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised: major events such as this have long-lasting effects—the ripples of their influence stretching far beyond what is covered in conventional news coverage. And, so is this case for those featured in Zoe McIntosh’s short documentary, Living Like Kings, a profile piece about a group of opportunistic homeless men, who amidst the rubble and evacuated structures, find a taste of the high-life.

Documentaries are only as good as their subjects and here McIntosh has found fascinating ones. Even at just a brief three minutes, we are ingratiated into the inner circle of a band of lovable rapscallions as they take up residence in their abandoned palaces. That in itself is fascinating—the unforeseen result of a major natural disaster.  But, beyond that, it’s a film that explores a multitude of contrasts. Most prominently, of course, there’s that of class: the “haves” vs. “the have-nots.” The tides have turned as our lovable scamps have found a new life of luxury. In turn, the film is infused with a gloriously anarchic, punk-rock sensibility. Good fun, yes, but also underlined by something a bit dark and sinister. For in our protagonists’ gain, they are capitalizing on someone else’s tragedy. It’s a dichotomy that I find fascinating and which McIntosh captures deftly.

Needless to say, there’s a lot of content here that, unfortunately, the film’s brief runtime prevents McIntosh from exploring in true detail. It’s not often I say this, but this is the rare short film that deserves to be longer! But, as an entry into the Loading Docs series, the brevity is expected as the program requires each piece to be only three minutes (if interested, check out The Jump, another film from the same series we featured recently). Fortunately, McIntosh is working on cutting a slightly longer version of the film. As she relates, “There were some truly gorgeous stories and unreal characters that I couldn’t fit in. A classic case where reality can be stranger than fiction.”

As for what’s next, McIntosh is currently making the festival rounds with her feature “docu-comedy” entitled The Deadly Ponies Gang. You can also keep up to date with the rest of her stellar work on her website,

Ivan is a filmmaker, video editor, and motion graphic artist from the Washington, DC area. He is an avid movie watcher and podcaster. He’s also quite handsome and charming (at least that's what his Mom says). For more information about Ivan, visit Lucky 9 Studios.
  • theearthandus

    thats quite an interesting short! i agree with you that it deserves wo be longer.

  • Zeninez

    Definitely a perspective I never imagined, when thinking about an earthquake. Very insightful and original idea.

  • thisisnotafilm

    It’s ridiculous to call something like this a “short film”. It’s a trailer. Would love to watch the feature version.

  • bob the moo

    I don’t know if it is fair to say it is just a trailer; it is self-contained by its own definition, but the write-up is right, that there is much more than this short can deliver in the time.
    It seems to be a downside of the Loading Docs shorts….only a few of them fit perfectly into the 3 minute requirement, for the rest they generally feel like there were 7-8 minute films that would have been much better with more time and space.

  • kung_fuelvis

    I think sometimes a short can leave you wanting more and still be a good short and this certainly seems the case with ‘Living like Kings’. I think the films of the Loading Docs series I’ve seen do a great job of containing a narrative in their brief duration, but I would agree that at times these restrictions to the run-time do somewhat limit the opportunities for the narrative to expand and build characters.

  • bob the moo

    I think The Road to Whakare, Wayne, Stop/Go, Queer Selfies and Living Like Kings all felt like there was a better 5 minute film in there….

    Conversely Baba, The Jump, Today and Homing all fitted the 3 minutes really well (although with the latter it was partly that the scope of the idea was so focused).

  • jimmykl

    The homeless might be living like kings but the that might not apply for the animals owned by one of them…

  • I Am Who I Am

    Really … you want to see more? It’s perfect at 3 minutes. The irony of the situation, would, I think, become tiresome if it were any longer. If many of us are only a couple of pay cheques away from homelessness then it is not much of a stretch to think we would react the same way to a sudden shift in fortune. It’s a good short film.

  • Tricia

    I enjoyed it. I’d like to see more too.