Cargo, 2001

Betacam numérique PAL, couleur, son

In her work, Laura Waddington, a documentary/fiction filmmaker, deals with different forms of displacement, borders and the absence of freedom.
In 2000, the Rotterdam International Film Festival commissioned her to make a video as part of the project “On the Waterfront”, featuring documentaries produced by ten directors in various ports throughout the world. She decided to visit several ports in a freighter, criss-crossing Europe to reach the Middle East with a group of thirty or so Filipino and Romanian seamen. After an initial refusal, she finally embarked on a summer berth, for a six-week immersion. Her camera allowed her to infiltrate, to film the life of the crew and unauthorised areas.
Following this experience and around sixty hours of rush, Laura Waddington produced a video that she chose to situate on the border between fiction and reality. She shows the seamen’s working conditions, but the use of narrative voice-over allows spectators to distance themselves from the concept of filmed reality. It was important for her that the audience question the veracity of the narration. Thus, certain contradictions in the voice-over discourse are intentional, testifying to the experience that takes the form of a letter addressed to a man.
Through her work on time, framing, colours and the voice-over, the artist relates the daily life of seamen, which is subject to very strict regulations. They are not permitted to leave the boat and spend most of their time waiting for orders, since they do not know in advance what route they will take. The images are slowed down and disjointed, accompanied by discrete music with dramatic accents by English composer Simon Fisher Turner. This rhythm and the lack of fluidity of the images express the stretching of time on the freighter and how this time, on board, is not a continuous and organised flow, but a succession of static moments without the slightest foreseeability. Certain countries on the freighter’s course are very hostile, namely Syria, where the ports are military zones in which all forms of image recording are prohibited. From one of the freighter’s portholes, the artist captured stolen images of a man gathering wood, another fishing, crouched on top of an old submarine, and women whose postures indicate that they are waiting. Like a signature and a testimony of her presence, Laura Waddington’s reflection on the waters ploughed by the freighter appears at the end of the video.

Priscilia Marques

Translated by Yves Tixier and Anna Knight