A Camera in the Water: Reframing the Migrant Image in Creative Documentary Film
 Still from Purple Sea (2020) by Amel Alzakout and Khaled Abdulwahed.
Edinburgh College of Art | The University of Edinburgh
PhD Film Practice (2021-present) - part-time
Supervisors:  Dr Jamie Chambers and Emma Davie
Over the past decade, non-fiction films have critically engaged with issues of forced displacement and irregular border crossings into Europe. During the same period, the profusion of images of migrants in the media, and how these affect hegemonic ways of seeing, has been a significant legacy for documentary filmmakers to acknowledge and engage with. This practice-based research investigates creative and collaborative non-fiction filmmaking practices by combining film analysis and visual ethnography. Firstly, it examines the intertwined aesthetic and ethical implications of a corpus of non-fiction films depicting migrant crossings in the Mediterranean, exploring their positionality and perspectives in terms of the production process and the migrant image it produces. Secondly, it engages with lived experiences of forced displacement and border crossings in the English Channel to illuminate, through filmmaking, the prospects of a world beyond the contemporary imagination of geographical and symbolic borders.

Forced displacement; border-crossings; English Channel; migrant aesthetics; film practice; documentary, human rights.

Research Question:
If all continents are connected underwater, then the English Channel is a place of separation - a maritime border between nations - and a confluence of distinct peoples and cultures. If so, how might filmmaking allow us to enter this liminal space? How can embodied experiences of forced displacement be evoked through film?
The ECA PhD scholarship funds the research.

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