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Loading Docs: Waihorotiu

Monday 27th 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. 

DIRECTOR PROFILE: LOUIS OLSEN AND FRANCES HASZARD

In their new Loading Docs film, Louis Olsen and Frances Haszard are uncovering the Waihorotiu stream or the Queen Street River, names of the river remnant that flows unseen under Queen Street in Auckland.

The river, which was covered up in the 1800s due to urban expansion, has attracted ongoing interest from archaeologists to artists, and now filmmakers, who hope to bring attention to the loss of waterways.

“Our waterways are still being covered over at a really alarming rate,” says Haszard, who along with Olsen, first became interested in learning more after hearing about this practice as an international phenomenon.

“We heard about similar stories happening internationally and we just started wondering about Auckland,” Olsen says.

“I [then heard] that Auckland loses [approximately] 10 km of waterways each year due to culverting. I've also always found it quite intriguing thinking about what [the] city used to be like, so I guess these two things led us to Waihorotiu.”

After examining the issue, a motivator for the filmmakers was to share the river with those who didn’t know about it.

“A lot of it's to do with the reaction when we would tell people about it. A lot of people had no idea that it existed,” says Olsen.

For Olsen and Haszard, the Loading Docs call for submissions came at just the right time, giving them a push to start filming.

It’s an ongoing issue that our waterways are still being covered over at a really alarming rate.

Haszard and Olsen, who had watched all the 2014 Loading Docs films, felt that this would be the perfect format to explore the stories that have flowed out from the river.

After their concept was accepted, the next step for the directing duo was to start the research process, exploring the different stories and history of the Waihorotiu.

“It’s just such a broad subject, and we were interested in a few different angles in it - one of those, we ended up having to take out of the film, [was] the sheer variety of people who had stories to tell about it.

“During the crowdfunding phase we had people approach us with some really great [stories], even urban legends,” says Haszard.

For Olsen, integral to their filmmaking was telling the river's story and respecting its history, as much as it is about exploring the state of the river today. The filmmakers also hope to bring to attention the loss of waterways nationally.

“It’s an ongoing issue that our waterways are still being covered over at a really alarming rate,” says Haszard.

With the film continuing to stimulate interest and stories, the next step for the filmmakers is to create an online resource.

“At this stage we’re creating a website so we can put up interviews with people who we met during our research process, so we’re just curating the information we have - and taking time to look at that.”

The website serves as an information portal, hosting images and documents from the documentary, and the Waihorotiu itself. Haszard and Olsen plan to keep adding to the website as their information grows. 

Story by Elizabeth Beattie.



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