France/ UK, 2004
27 min. Digibeta PAL, Colour, Stereo

Press Quotes

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“But the shock of the (Locarno film) 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.”
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Philippe Azoury, LIBERATION, Paris

“A thousand miles away from the television reports that vainly try to give a hypothetical identity to these displaced bodies, Laura Waddington’s desperate camera scrupulously avoids the refugees’ faces to convey an animal condition, a status of hunted beasts. Nothing predatory, no social dogma, just real empathy in this worried and audacious filming. And if the image is superb, at times pushing Border towards the boundaries of video dance and thus annoying certain guards of the temple of ethics, this is primarily due to a technical necessity, the DV camera’s shutter wide open to compensate for the lack of light, resulting in a large trembling grain, an impression of slow motion, movements like so many imprints.”
Bertrand Loutte, LES INROCKUPTIBLES, Paris

“Subtle and powerful, the work of this English filmmaker, nomadic observer of the world and devoted translator of fear and hope, as in the film Border (International Competition/ Special Mention) a tragic document about the powerless attempts of Afghan and Iraqi refugees to escape from France to England and the violent police repression that followed the closure of the camp of Sangatte.”
Elena Marcheschi, IL MANIFESTO, Italy

“Set only in the wide open, with refugees, silhouettes in the sheltering darkness, moving in the wind and the rain, crossing landscapes, anonymous to the eye yet known by name to the narrator, Laura Waddington… There’s a heroic compassion of quasi-Kurosawa’ian dimensions to each image, a justness to each movement that in its humbleness speaks gloriously of all the growth and learning done in all those years on the road.”
Olaf Möller , THE DAYS AND YEARS OF MY TRAVELS, The 51st Pesaro Film Fest Catalogue 2005

“Have the fireflies disappeared? Of course not. Some of them are very close to us, they brush against in the dark: others have gone over the horizon, to try to rebuild elsewhere their community, their minority, their shared desire. Here remain for us the images of Laura Waddington and the names – in the end credits – of all those whom she met. We can watch the film again, we can give it to others to watch, we can circulate fragments, that will give rise to others; firefly-images.”
Georges Didi-Huberman, SURVIVANCE DES LUCIOLES, Les Éditions de Minuit, Paris, 2009

“the power of this particular movie stems from the fact that instead of reinforcing the division between the safe position of the viewer and the imposed “elsewhere”, to which the film gives the viewer access, the author pulls us deep into the space of the interval, she forces us to inhabit the area between previously negotiated identities.”
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“The images in Border, pregnant with pathos, shaky and shaking their audience, search for… a new formula of community based around sharing a common space and a gaze that would take the gaze of the other into account. These, as Sergey Eisenstein would say, “inspired images of audiovisual exaltation” emerge… from a place where politics is born, even though it is not called politics and has no representatives.”
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“There is something tragically beautiful in the images of Waddington, which call to mind the phrase that Grandieux and Brenez used for their series on filmmakers, committed to political resistance: “It may be that beauty has strengthened our resolve.” These images serve, not to calm our alienated guilt, product of our physical and emotional distance from the foreigner, but to unleash an exercise in empathy, a resurrection of memory, a fever of humanity and the strengthening of our inner flame.”
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José Sarmiento Hinojosa DESIST FILM, Online Film Journal, Peru, 2019

“It was in 2002: the illegality of the situation, the police lieing in wait, the race through the fields, the omnipresence of the night lit only by the danger of helicopter searchlights, all that gives her film’s images their condition of invisibility, but also, more powerfully a proximity to these men, these women and these children whose features we hardly see – whose desperate clamours we hear at a moment when faced with the police– but of who the film manages to construct, admirably, like a poem, their dignity.”
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“Juxtaposed with eloquent images that suggest way more than what they actually show. The result is simply astonishing: an expressionist piece with a visual and sound design that wondrously exposes, in a reflexive manner, the pain and suffering of others as though it were your own”
Pablo Suárez BUENOS AIRES HERALD, Argentina

“A radical call for heterogeneity, diversity, the image saturated to the limits of the visible, producing the disconcerting revelation: there is nothing left to see, only pieces to gather. It is, without doubt, what we call a vision of the world, the least obvious but the most painfully contemporary”
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“It is at this precise point that the work of Laura Waddington situates itself, in the region of absence and loss. Her territory begins at the edges of the visible, where absence persists in maintaining itself for a moment longer. It is the darkness which allows the palpitation of the visible, the recording of a luminous imprint signaling a presence which does not stop disappearing. And a quality of image grain, which marks itself out as a difficult and necessary vision.”
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Border bears witness to the harsh reality of shadows, to a group of invisible people at the side of the road and is the most eloquent political and artistic metaphor ever expressed”

“the director rejects the temptation of the spectacle, working almost by subtraction, aware that she can only suggest the disorientation and ambiguity of the non-place… and in these prolonged shots there is the courageous will of Waddington to explore the shadowy zones of the contemporary, the territories occupied by the invisible peoples, who drag themselves into the bubble of globalization.”
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Stefania Rimini, IMMAGINAZIONI: RISCRITTURE E IBRIDAZIONI FRA TEATRO E CINEMA, Bonanno Editore, Gruppo Editoriale s.r.l. Roma

Border is in fact a rare example of harmonious coincidence between the ethical and the esthetic plane; the touching quality of the images (grainy, unstable, sometimes actually slowed down) is always in the service of emotion, and thus it can happen that the fragile beauty of silhouettes pressed against the horizon becomes a cry, a flash, a firefly.”“
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Stefania Rimini, IMMAGINAZIONI: RISCRITTURE E IBRIDAZIONI FRA TEATRO E CINEMA, Bonanno Editore, Gruppo Editoriale s.r.l. Roma

“The immediacy of the struggle: René Vautier named this cinema of performative immediacy a cinema of social intervention, which has as its aim the success of a struggle and the concrete transformation of a situation of conflict or injustice. This in situ cinema, nowadays accomplished… by Laura Waddington when she follows the struggle of immigrants in Border or by Godard when he made Prière pour refusniks

“An attempt to make us feel we are there, hunted men and women, waiting for the train, silhouettes of children and adults on the road to the camp, faces that suddenly surge up and scream, when the men with their faces and their uniforms use their violence and batons.”
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Federica Sossi, JGCINEMA.ORG, Italy

“causing a shockwave within the audience at the time [..] Border revealed the pitiful truth about the police violence ensuing from the closure of the refugee camp on December 14, 2002. Georges Didi-Huberman named Waddington’s often blurred, abstracted images made with a small video camera firefly images, confronting us with the furtive appearance and disappearance of firefly peoples. Powerfully, Didi-Huberman refused to speak of refugees, and instead proposed the term “fugitives.” In an interview with Filippo Del Lucchese, Waddington confirmed that she had always felt safe being out during the night, and that the only time she had been threatened was when French soldiers with machine guns urged her to not carry on with her undertaking.”
Hilde Van Gelder, GROUND SEA: PHOTOGRAPHY AND THE RIGHT TO BE REBORN, Leuven University Press 2021

“The image not only captures a reality, but also produces one. The work of art is not simply shown or said, but is a complex montage situated between ‘showing’ and ‘telling.’ Border shows the in-between as the human condition in an inhumane environment.”
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“Light years away from conventional cinema, far beyond the formalism of experimental cinema, radically opposed to the language of television, refusing the informative stance of documentary, the author shares in Border her active experience of video-militancy in action, working on the frontier of images and with a sense of emptiness and loss – anchoring inside her memory and that of the spectators, almost like an oxymoron, the undefined presence of those without a face, without documents, who go in search of a future, reclaiming their right to exist, to be recognised by the world, and to live.”
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“By reading Laura Waddington’s Border against an iconophobic media gaze, we are afforded the opportunity to reconsider this image economy and the suspicious gaze of the spectator it seeks to solicit… The spectator can no longer remain neutral as the lines of demarcation between filmmaker and spectator collapse.”
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“Waddington’s camera brings us troubling messages from the night; the industrial haze bruising the sky, lights on the horizon where people sit at home watching television, a world away from the men and children moving through the grass like ghosts.”
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Fiona Trigg, BORDER, The 3rd Auckland Triennial Catalogue

“What Waddington was witness to, and what she tries to communicate, is the beauty and strength of a group of people motivated by hope to attempt what seems impossible. What she saw in the darkness around Sangatte was always moving and sometimes tragic, but it was also a form of spiritual light in the darkness”
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Scott M. MacDonald, GARDENS OF THE MOON: THE MODERN CINE-NOCTURNE, Dumbarton Oaks, US 2014

“This landscape provides a new way of seeing, a different perspective and fresh opportunity to relate to the question of migration – a chance to perceive the position of refugees within the space of Sangatte in a metaphorical sense.”
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Mari Laanemets, CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, Kunsthalle Tallinn

“Remarkable also today are the filmmakers who accompany the oppressed with no political organization to support them, in the manner of Laura Waddington filming alongside undocumented immigrants”
Nicole Brenez, CINÉMAS D’AVANT-GARDE (publ. Cahiers du Cinéma)

“On the one hand, we follow in the footsteps of the “firefly-people”, who retreat into the night […] faceless and undocumented men, claiming the right to exist and to be recognised […] Shot in the dark, live, the frames are grainy, overexposed, blurred, flickering. Attentive and lucid, Waddington immerses herself in the drama of submerged and desperate lives, which she spies from close up, without ever giving in to realism. Intent on transgressing the modes of cinéma-verité, she does not observe the refugees from the outside: she moves with them, in the cold of the night; penetrating their anguish and their fears, initiating an insecure negotiation with reality. She performs a total adhesion: she seeks a visual cancellation of her gaze, to become part of the fields, of the panted breaths, of the attempts to run towards a more peaceful destination. A poignant critical testimony, the filmic tale is at turns disorganised and hallucinatory, crossed by “sparks of humanity.” They are “glare-images” that, as Georges Didi-Huberman has written, always seem to be on the verge of disappearing: dirty, battered, out of focus, grainy, lacking in clarity, shot at an irregular pace, almost in slow motion, captured by a shutter opened to the maximum. Conceived to “organise our pessimism”“
Vincenzo. Trione, ARTIVISMO, ARTE, POLITICA, IMPEGNO, publ. Einaudi, Italy 2022

“This approach testifies to a media-ethical stance: Laura Waddington’s protagonists hide in the noise of the image. She protects them from being dis-covered, from their visual exposure; she shows them confidentially, as secrets. This runs entirely contrary to conventional TV journalism, or even to critically intended documentary films, in which faces often serve as the most important carriers of identification.”
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“A look at Waddington’s film in fact reveals the point that Didi-Huberman sees as admirable: the desperate endeavors of the beings who are imperfect and unstable but living with desires that can be thwarted by no powerful Other can be sensed in the violently jolting video images of poor quality. My applause to Waddington’s incomparably remarkable ability to express them in her work of art. Suddenly, Ham’s aforementioned currently on-going work intersects with Waddington’s Border in my mind. In Border by Waddington it is made visible that desires for freedom intrinsic to humanity nestle in the shadows/weakness/pains of the world that are unknown and invisible to us. Yet Ham is all alone enduring the impossibility of her current work—that is the impossibility of capturing the desire for existential liberation and life-risking actual acts of those attempting to defect from North Korea.”
KANG Sumi, I Can’t See. An Aesthetics of Some and Such: Kyungah Ham’s Impossible Art, KOREA ARTIST PRIZE 2016, Seoul

“A thousand miles away from the documentaries, which television has accustomed us to, Border follows the trail of the refugees of Sangatte, combining formal sophistication with raw information… From this risk filled shoot with extreme technical constraints, she has brought back images filmed on the run, fragile, distorted, grainy”
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Mathilde Blottière et Laurent Rigoulet, TELERAMA, France

“The totally astonishing work of a young woman, who during several months in 2002, glued to her mini DV, captured images of Afghan and Iraqi refugees, around the Sangatte Red Cross camp, who were trying to cross the channel tunnel to England. Laura Waddington recounts her experience through images she transforms without complacency, using slow motion, breaks in sound, a grainy picture and heightened contrasts. Through form, she lends the drama unfolding before our eyes a completely new dimension, revealing the concept of cruelty, beneath a chance beauty, nonetheless extremely real.”
Olivier Bombarda, ARTE TV website, France

“Like wandering and stalked ghosts, evoking the sleepwalkers who wander through German Expressionist cinema, left to themselves, seeking elevation and always ready to fall… The manner of filming the refugees reflects the denial of identity that operates in these places, and the feeling of loss of identity which occurs for those individuals who live the reality in their flesh. As the director says in Sangatte, she felt that she was in a totally de-humanized place, where the refugees were running like shadows through the fields, “I tried to represent them as such.” “
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Chloe Belloc, Border/No Border: A la croisée de deux regards

“Laura Waddington (1970, also honoured with a retrospective of her work) literally opened her eye, the lens of her tiny DV camera for thousands of refugees and illegal immigrants that reside in the French Red Cross camp at Sangatte. The searchlights cut the darkness into pieces, shadows appear and disappear, the mere shades of human beings that often more than two year before fled from Irak or Afghanistan. Hour after hour they try to escape from the camp, hoping to enter the Chunnel and cross their final border, between France and England. The images from Border contain a silent and sad beauty that does not need to be understood. They pilot you in something more essential: the actual experience of sweat, cold and alienation.”
Dana Linssen, FIPRESCI report Oberhausen

“The best film in international competition Border shows refugees on the French side of the Eurotunnel. They dive in and out of fields and through the night like shadows in slow motion, filmed with a simple tourist camera. The only faces we see clearly, for a brief moment, are those of the police, who strike them during a demonstration.”
Christof Meueler, JUNGE WELT, Germany

“When a France, that is helmeted and dressed in blue, treats the voyager as a barbarian, the precarious beauty of a silhouette on the horizon becomes a shout, a weapon… Border is a vulnerable film and it is this quality which makes it a film resistant to the cold, the humidity and the barbarity of the police.”
Antoni Collot, MANECI, France

Border is a potent reminder of what lies beyond the boundaries of the mainstream news press, a highly efficient mechanism for showing us either nothing, or showing us only clichés.”
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Chari Larsson, SUSPICIOUS IMAGES: ICONOCLASM AND THE PROHIBITION OF REPRESENTATION, Conference, University of Queensland, Australia

“Disturbing, visually disjointed and haunting. Its visual impact… lies somewhere between sleeping and waking, dream and nightmare.”
James Drew, THE BULLETIN, Brussels

“Far removed from familiar reportage formats, the director confronts us with unusual images of a political tragedy. As a person crossing the borders between the visible and the invisible herself, she gives a profile to the shadowy faces of people living in darkness”
Ecomenical Jury Statement, The 51st OBERHAUSEN INTERNATIONAL Short Film Festival, Germany

Border makes a strong political statement and at the same time finds a convincing form to do so. While Laura Waddington supplies but the most necessary information she offers a large amount of high quality experience. Neither are the protagonists individualized nor is the drama of their fate made into a story but on the contrary is strongly reduced. The images speak for themselves in a visual language emanating from Waddington’s own experience of having spent ample time with the refugees. By means of an ever so slight formal alienation her film is taken out of the context of documentary news and is given a lyrical quality”
International Jury Statement, First Prize VIDEOEX 2005, Zurich, Switzerland