In the News: 'Student Documentary Shares Story of S.F. Homeless'

"Over the Bridge," documentary about homelessness in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. By Maria Lavelle and Sarah Kocher.

These photos show the making of "Over the Bridge," a new documentary by Augustana students Maria Lavelle and Sarah Kocher. Photos by Sarah Kocher and Julie Vu.


Learn more about "Over the Bridge," a new documentary on homelessness in Sioux Falls by AU students Maria Lavelle and Sarah Kocher.

Then, make plans to attend the film's public premiere at 4 p.m. on Friday, March 11, in the Back Alley.


Student Documentary Shares Story of S.F. Homeless
By Megan Raposa, Argus Leader

Maria Lavelle and Sarah Kocher set out on a frigid January morning with two friends, a camera and several layers of clothing in hopes of capturing the stories of the homeless population in Sioux Falls.

"Here on campus, we're kind of isolated from what's going on in the city," Lavelle said. "So I just wanted to see a different side of the city."

The documentary, "Over the Bridge," wasn't for a school project or an extra-curricular group.

The two women, both 22-year-old Augustana University students, wanted to work together to create an independent documentary short using a combination of Kocher's journalistic interview skills and Lavelle's video expertise

They chose to focus on homelessness as a way to create conversations around the issue as it relates to Sioux Falls.

"Not everyone is going to go down there and do it themselves," Kocher said. "So someone has to be willing to go down there and say, 'Hey, let's explore this problem together ... and let's try to bring it back to everyone else.'"

A large portion of the 15-minute documentary was filmed on what Kocher called one of the coldest days in January. The women spent much of the day following Robert Eggers, a homeless man.

Eggers narrated the documentary, and on the main day of filming, the women followed him as he went through his usual routine. They did what he did and met who he met.

"Parts of it (were) really heartbreaking ... I think we cried with the people who cried in front of the camera."

— Maria Lavelle

Lavelle moved to Sioux Falls two years ago from Hangesund, Norway. In Norway, the homeless are more visible than in Sioux Falls, she said.

"America for a Norwegian is like the 'golden country' ... I just wanted to see if there was anything people (in Sioux Falls) didn't want to talk about, something that was a little bit controversial," Lavelle said of the decision to make the documentary.

The most humbling part of making the film was the amount of interest the project generated from the homeless community, Kocher said.

"Meeting people who needed a place to share their story," Kocher said. "Or maybe felt that their story wasn't being heard, and saw us as a place for that story to be shared was really humbling."

"Over the Bridge" will air publicly at 4 p.m. Friday on Augustana's campus,

Following the premiere, Lavelle and Kocher plan to enter the documentary into area film festivals.


Watch a Preview of the Film