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Loading Docs: Fantasy Cave

Tuesday 28th July 2015

Loading Docs is a launching pad for New Zealand short documentaries which has just released 10 new films. We’ll be featuring each of the films and profiling the directors behind them. 


Directing pair Michelle Savill and Matthew Henley invite the viewer into the strange and wonderful world of ‘Fantasy Cave’ for their Loading Docs short.

Tucked away up a flight of stairs in rural Dannevirke, 14 ‘Cave Dwellers’ build, plan, craft, and talk over cups of tea.

“They call themselves the Cave Dwellers, the core group that run the place,” says Savill.

“They're the ones that build and make everything.”

The Cave Dwellers have been running Fantasy Cave for 25 years and they meet a couple of days each week to construct evolving exhibitions and ornate fairytale dioramas. Using imagination and creativity the Cave Dwellers can take an old bike wheel and transform it into a spinning loom, or collect plastic bottles and turn them into a glitter-covered castle.

The group, who usually have a no cameras inside policy, made an exception for Henley and Savill to film inside the cave and learn about some of the inner workings.

“It’s so busy. It’s such a hive of activity, they’re just non-stop doing stuff. Then it’s cup of tea, back to work.

“There’s a big workshop where they build all the stuff, it’s really physical creating that keeps the mind and body going, then they get to put out their artwork - I think it’s artwork - then the public come through and see it. They have a lot of fun,” says Savill.

It just reminds you that you can have fun as an adult and be creative and silly.

“It sounds corny, but they’re really inspiring.”

Savill first heard about Fantasy Cave through her directing partner Henley who had visited it as a child. It left a lingering interest in the people who had created a fantastical place which attracts thousands of tourists every year, adults and children alike.

“All these tourists come through, they’ve got this big world map and it’s just full of pins of where the tourists have come from. It’s incredible.”

The Cave Dwellers and their collective of 140 volunteers, have a passion for re-introducing adults to the fairytales they grew up with and sharing older stories with children who might not have heard them before. They want to share the magical world they’ve created with those who come to visit.

“I think it’s [for] anyone with an interest and an open mind. I think on the surface, yeah it’s for kids, but adults love it too, because it’s really nostalgic.

“It just reminds you that you can have fun as an adult and be creative and silly,” says Savill.

For their Loading Docs short, capturing this sense of fun and creativity was essential.

“A lot of people have never heard about [the cave].

“We wanted to try and make the viewer experience it,” says Savill.

Story by Elizabeth Beattie.

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