Does the image, a physical phenomenon of light, move in similar wavelengths as the synapses of our brain, the same impulses that channel the spiritual connections between humans? If this is so, Laura Waddington’s Border (2004) is a rare evidence of sorts, a document that approaches and ignites the human soul, an abstraction of the pure experience of human communion. It is Afghanistan, Iraq, France. It’s a world which created invisible walls to disenfranchise its children, a world which ravaged entire bodies and then rejected their healing.
There are few things as important in cinema today as the efforts of brave filmmakers like Laura Waddington. In the spirit of Hanoun, Ivens, Adachi and others, Waddington loaned her physical presence to the cause, spending months at the Sangatte Red Cross Camp, in the border of the Eurotunnel, the gateway for many refugees who seek shelter in the United Kingdom. There, Waddington composed a unique tonal poem using her own particular means: a digital MiniDV camera. It’s dispositive against dispostif, the abstraction of the digital image against the apparatus of repression and dehumanization that has been an ensign for so many European countries.
The rarefied ambiance of Waddington’s images is difficult to forget. Near the camps, bodies move as specters through the fields and elsewhere, trying to hitch a ride on one of the massive trains that cross the border. Her camera’s CCD seems to overwork trying to find an image in the dark, a transient presence that would stay still enough time for its face to become embedded in our minds. But the transit of bodies, the urgency, makes everything fleeting, and that mass of scattered people become none, invisible to the eyes, only to be rescued by the words of the filmmaker, ever present in the film, giving testimony of what we can’t see.
The land, like a womb, embraces and rejects, and in the distance people get lost wandering, maybe expecting a new future, some justice, or compensation for what was taken from them in the past. And inside of us, a distant cry:
May the poetry of the moving image save us from this world.
Border was curated for Joris Ivens Foundation’s Poetry and Politics Program (by Pedro Tavares). Follow Laura Waddington on her website.