Living Like Kings is a captivating documentary short that leaves us far too quickly. At a far too brief 3 minutes, Living Like Kings plays witness to the great homeless migration from pauper to prince in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand. With rubble everywhere and luxury homes, condos, and hotels abandoned, many members of Christchurch’s homeless community found ample opportunity for housing as they took squatter’s rights over the ghost town. In what is truly some haunting imagery, the earthquake left many parts of Christchurch looking as if it were playing the part of some post-apocalyptic town. Yet, to those unfamiliar, Christchurch remains one of New Zealand’s largest municipalities, sporting the third largest population in the country.
It is fascinating watching the various characters take joy out of their upgraded situation, yet there is also something somewhat sinister underlying the entire situation. Like voyeurism, squatting carries with it this sensation of invasion. Watching these men sift through the possessions of others, the viewer can’t help but put themselves in the shoes of both the homeless and the home-owners, whose only crime was living in the middle of a disaster zone. It is somewhat sad that we are not given some context in this regard. Was what was left, left purposely and forever? Or is this some intermediary position between destruction and the reclamation of some sort of life after loss? An interregnum of which these men are simply taking advantage of.
The short is produced somewhat like a trailer, though it is a stand-alone documentary as it was created for New Zealand’s Loading Docs series. That being said, I hope that Director Zoe McIntosh can find the time to turn this into a full-length documentary, or at least expand upon the content on display here. Incredibly fascinating stuff!
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