Free Cameras

Philippe AzouryLibération, Paris, 2004.

By Philippe Azoury

The 57th Locarno Film Festival is marked by four exceptional films, including the shock “BORDER” which render out of date a sluggish competition, for the moment saved by the lively “Andre Valente”.

What can an hour and a half of threadbare formula do, faced with a burst of oxygen of twenty five minutes? Nothing. And that’s the first news, neither good nor bad, that we’ll bring back from Locarno. This 57th edition of the world’s fourth largest film festival (after Cannes, Venice and Berlin) will be remembered for that: the fracture between, on the one hand, a mediocre cinema, produced by the purr of the film industry, speaking an insipid esperanto, presenting a glossy image, in which nothing must disturb a well meaning humanism; and on the other hand, a few works, which use the camera in a subjective and extraordinary way. From now on this fracture is wide open.


Bus, stop, cargo. But the shock of the festival is the cinema of Laura Waddington, 34 years old, English, she lived illegally in New York, then spent a few years travelling with the world’s exiles in the most dangerous places. Due to a plane phobia, she made these journeys on buses, cargo ships, hitchhiking. But aside from planes, Laura Waddington is afraid of nothing and her video camera carries all her courage and her conscience. Slung across her shoulder. Border is the trace of the months, she spent in Sangatte, hidden in the fields, each night, with Afghan and Iraqi refugees. Shot secretly, the shutter wide open, almost in slow motion, the images create an aesthetic experience of fear, of terror, as if fallen out of a nightmare, peopled with out of focus figures. Border links the fields of Sangatte to that terrified part of our imagination, hidden deep within all of us.

Four films, eighty minutes of projection, at the end of which, we no longer know what cinema is or at least where the frontier lies between cinema and the rest. We know just one more thing about what art is: an ultra-sensitive propensity to tremble at the bankruptcy of the world.

(Translated from the French)

“Caméras Libres” by Philippe Azoury, Libération, Paris, August 11, 2004