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Filming at the Borders: The Messengers (Les Messagers)

General Programming

dateOctober 14, 2016 timeFriday, 6:30pm EDT location Buell Hall, Maison Française, Columbia University
  • Maison Française
  • European Institute
  • School of the Arts
  • Columbia Center for Contemporary Critical Thought
  • Alliance Program
  • Institute for the Study of Human Rights
  • Institute of African Studies
  • Columbia Global Centers
  • Free and open to the public

The Messengers (Les Messagers)
Hélène Crouzillat and Laetitia Tura, 2014, 70 min.

Film Screening followed by discussion with director Laetitia Tura, Professor Madeleine Dobie, and Professor Jérôme Game

Genre: Documentary. French production. Filmed in: Morocco, Tunisia, Spain, France. Languages: French, Arabic, Spanish, Pulaar, with English subtitles.
U.S. Premiere

From the Sahara to Melilla, migrants relate how they narrowly escaped death, unlike their unfortunate travelling companions – who were literally and symbolically swallowed up by the border: from the Mediterranean Sea’s waters to the walls that States have built at great expense. Where are their bodies? Where are their graves? The “messengers” are those who have survived and who say their names. The Messengers is the very first documentary on the subject and was shot during a four-year long investigation in Northern Africa by the two directors, Tura being a filmmaker, and Crouzillat initially a photographer. Out of hundreds of hours of interviews, the two directors edited the film with a respectful restraint and a formal simplicity which convey a sense of political and metaphysical scandal. The film was theatrically released in France in 2015 after being selected at Cinéma du réel in Paris and Etats généraux du documentaire in Lussas, and it has been screened in many festivals in Europe and in Northern and Central Africa.

The screening of Les Messagers will be preceded by a short film:

Laura Waddington, 2004, 24 min.
Genre: video art. French / English co-production. Filmed in France. Language: English.

In 2002, Laura Waddington spent months in the fields around Sangatte Red Cross camp in France with Afghan and Iraqi refugees, who were trying to cross the channel tunnel to England. Filmed at night with a small video camera, the figures lit only by the distant car headlights on the motorways, Border is a personal account of the refugees' plight and the police violence that followed the camp's closure. Laura Waddington made this video at a time when few European directors and artists were working on the subject. Border opened at Locarno Festival, won awards at Oberhausen, Pantin and Zürich festivals, and is now part of the collections of major museums and universities.

“Have the fireflies disappeared? Of course not. Some of them are very close to us, they brush against us 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, Paris, 2009)

Click here for details.

  • Madeleine Dobie Professor of French Columbia University