Nicole Wolf

Sea Sight
London, January 2016

‘You’d always wait. It’s a waiting game... You are always on the edge… Sometimes you can be distracted by certain images, or whatever, and they are not an important security image. And you can get distracted. And that’s when you’ll miss something else. So you do need to be on your toes. You need to be on your guard.’ - Terry Diamond

There is no beginning, and there is no end. When we leave the cinema after ninety minutes, the boat is still there, or a boat anyways. That’s how life is. No breaks.
But HAVARIE does give us those ninety minutes to attend to life, to look and listen. Curiously, while the standpoint from which we look is static, this might allow us to take a step back from our usual spectator position. Curiously, while we look at the surface of the sea, a space is opened out, indeed many spaces, many living spaces, and so we listen in those spaces, we see in those spaces. While 3.36 minutes are expanded, while time is given back to Terry Diamond’s distinct observation of a chance meeting between the massive steel cruise ship Adventure of the Seas and a small rubber boat carrying thirteen men, we encounter a series of different living spaces, and they encounter each other. While time is unfolded, life stories are folded into each other and are at the same time folded back into the space that is the sea. The radio communication planning the rescue and capture of the Harraga boat overlaps with each living space introduced – the politics of the sea adds a significant layer to many people’s lives, to all our lives.


‘The sea there is keeping me from my wife.’ – Abdallah Benhamou

The spatial dimension and the intense presence conveyed through the sound we listen in is indebted to a commitment to meticulous documentary research and tracing of those particular individuals in this very boat, those who could well have been in their stead, and those who could well have encountered them. That we start creating images in our heads is not an accident, that we experience the intimacy of spaces and relations is not random, but follows admirable aesthetic political choices. Havarie advances us carefully selected fragments that continuously open out and never close down, never allowing an image to obstruct our view, or a call and response to close down our imagining of lives.


‘How desolate. Everyone’s gone.’ – Rhim Ibrir

Significant fragments accentuate the particularity and locatedness of those we encounter and the conflicts they live in and with. The death of a friend through the British army in Ireland; the fear for a son to be called to the military in Russia; the terror in front of your house in Algeria; the never-ending back pain and endless time of waiting – waiting for one’s visa, waiting for home, waiting for lost souls, waiting for hopefully nothing to happen, for a peaceful night, waiting for the mobile phone to ring.


‘The main thing is that you stay healthy; that the kids are doing well. Yes, and that there’s peace finally.’ – Leonid Savin

For ninety minutes, we as spectators are our very own longing, but we too wait, and we meet others in the creation of images of memory. While they remember, we try to see with them, dolphins as well as planes trying to purposely overturn them. Through that intricate web of evoked conflicts, in inner and outer spaces – unlike the succession of news items competing with each other – there is absolutely no pretence of sameness but a proposal for connectedness as a political choice.

The very singularity of each detail is carried as well by the acute separation of our senses, of looking and listening and bodily affect. When our senses meet again, a turbulence seems to arise, forcefully locating the crisis in our very own bodies. We are confronted as onlookers but we are also a part in the global web of conflicts.


‘So I don’t know if we were a symbol of hope or…?’ – Guillaume Coutu

While there is a radical rethinking of the productivity of storytelling in documentary works, there is also an explosive transformation of 3.36 minutes of digital video found online, into what looks like tempestuous experimentations on 16mm film. At one moment the screen and thereby the sensation of our bodies in front of the screen, flows over in a burst of colours, in the starkly blinding sun, in the glaring light reflections of the cruise ship and the entraining effect of a Filipino song. While we are brutally thrown back to our location, we are also bathed in the crystallisation of the very situation we witness and have become part of.


‘And if I tell you: one more trip, and then that’s it?’ – Houcin Ouahiani

Ninety minutes of looking at the boat with thirteen people who made the decision to risk their lives to cross the sea – ‘We can only assume’ – does not culminate in our finally seeing. In fact, it questions the very possibility of seeing or if we actually intended to see at all. But equally, this time might transmit that we do not need an image or even the story of another in order to connect.


‘I like the sound of the waves crashing. I suppose it gives you a sense of peace. And this is what life should be.’ – Terry Diamond

HAVARIE is thus a view in the space of geopolitics, of labour, of deep longing, of patient waiting, of escaping, of brutal choices, of life, death, and ghosts, and of the lack of memorials. It is sometimes also a space tangential to state politics, a space of possibility, for fiction and thereby for reshuffling relations and perspectives. Offering us time to look, HAVARIE gives us the precious gift of attending, of drifting, of imagining, of discomfort, of the labour of actively setting ourselves in relation to. When we leave the cinema for another image, the boat will still be there. But maybe we had a glimpse of the possibility of the entanglements of our relations and locations and of the autonomy of our imagination and the possibility of deciding for ourselves how we want to relate. It can’t get more real than that.