Laura's Eyes

Olivier NicklausLes Inrockuptibles, Paris, 2003.

By Olivier Nicklaus

The courageous English video maker Laura Waddington puts her experimental talents to political use.

We went to interview Laura Waddington to talk with her about her beautiful film CARGO, showing on Court Circuit, ARTE and returned utterly astonished by her account of the making of her new film in Sangatte. There, she discovered a reality so far removed from the official national security discourse of the television news and pro-governmental media, we were shocked. But let’s begin with CARGO, since it’s largely due to this that Laura came to Sangatte.

It began with a commission; to make a video about a port. But Laura, English video maker, born in 1970 and trained in New York in the world of experimental cinema, has a plane phobia. She therefore decided to reach her port by cargo ship. Not just any cargo ship: a container ship inhabited solely by men, moreover Filipino sailors.

Of course, at first, they said no. But true to her character, Laura persisted, despite rebuttal, and finished by being accepted by the thirty men. Her camera, as always, served both as shield and spear with which to take root, there where the world absolutely does not want her to go.

She acknowledges taking risks, “If I make films, it’s because I am searching for something. And it’s often, when I am frightened or in a very tense situation that I get close to what I’m looking for.” CARGO is nothing less than dazzling. Visually, it’s superb (the dreamlike images, the work on time, the hallucinatory colours) but most of all, through her voice over, she gives these men an exemplary humanity and dignity.

But the Waddington adventure does not stop there. Since a long time, Laura, who ended up moving to Paris, has been sensitive to the situation of illegal immigrants. The eleventh of September came. The next day, she was already in Sangatte, filming Afghans. In the camp, she met with hostility. And so she decided to go and film the refugees there where they were: on the roads. She was there when the police intervened: “I saw scenes of such violence, things one wouldn’t imagine. People are living in awful conditions – the lack of hygiene of course – but the worst is the mental violence. A few went mad. We do not see the on TV, the reports don’t manage reflect the horror. It’s necessary to find another way.”

Laura Waddington is committed to finding this way, even if it means persisting, even if it means taking on debts. She knows that her work is there and that she must do it. And the most beautiful aspect of the work and conversations of this video maker? Her way of keeping pathos at a distance, while being at the heart of the most urgent themes of our times.

(Translated from the French)

Olivier Nicklaus, “Les Yeux de Laura” LES INROCKUPTIBLES no394, Paris 18 June 2003