Laura Waddington: The Clandestine Camera

Mathilde BlottièreTélérama, France, 2006.

By Mathilde Blottière et Laurent Rigoulet

At 35, this talented English mixer transgresses conventions and codes to make other images—that are sensitive and personal. Emblematic of a movement, whose creativity is drawn from the telescoping of disciplines, Border her latest short film, produced in France, is competing this year at Clermont Ferrand. Is this artistic tendency gaining ground in short film?

A thousand miles away from the documentaries, which we have grown accustomed to on the television news, Border sets out on in search of the refugees of Sangatte and meshes formal sophistication with raw information. In 2001 and 2002, using a small mini DV camera, Laura Waddington filmed the clandestine immigrants, at night, wandering through the fields and roads around the camp. From this risk filled shoot, with its extreme technical constraints, she brought back images filmed on the run—fragile, distorted and grainy.

At first, video was a way for her to overcome practical difficulties “When I lived in New York, I met electronic musicians who were making and distributing music out of their apartments. I felt that cinema would eventually move in the same direction and that with a small camera, even if I couldn’t find production funds, I’d always be able to keep shooting.” With video, she says that she wanted to “unlearn” the reflexes she’d acquired while shooting film. In filming “without using (her) eyes” as in ZONE, filmed in 1995 on a transatlantic ship with a video camera sewn into her jacket.

Two years later, she continued this process of exploration with The Lost Days, the story of a globe-trotting woman, who sends back video letters to a friend in New York. In fact, via internet, the filmmaker contacted fifteen people in different countries and asked them to film their cities as if they were her protagonist.

Laura Waddington does not believe in an objective reality and prefers to present a partial and incomplete vision “like a sort of notebook.” Her experimental veerings around the porous frontiers of documentary and fiction provoke the spectator by making him question the veracity of the narrative. “I’ve always considered short film to be a valid form in itself and not, as seems to often be the case in France, a calling card for feature film making.”

(Translated from the french)

“Laura Waddington: La caméra clandestine” by Mathilde Blottière et Laurent Rigoulet, Télérama, du 4 au 10 fevrier 2006 No 2925, France