Who By Water

Who By Water


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Who By Water is a collection of archive footage of boat passengers, much of it rare or thought lost. Its soundtrack is composed by Michael Gordon, and performed by the Tactus Modern Ensemble whose repertoire of brass, drums, and tambourine has an almost Industrial feel. It also doesn't make a lot of sense.

There's no real sequence here, nothing that truly holds the film together apart from the music, and that was applied after the fact. Yes, these are the faces of people, many of whom are long dead. Yes, these are people travelling tremendous relative distances, in times that are alien to us: the past is a foreign country. Those in the archive footage stare at the camera; the audience looks back. Any sense that this was the point is lost in the forays into aerial footage, shots of ships that might be the Britannic, long lost liners of an age gone by.

Copy picture

If a film is going to ask its audience to ask questions of itself, it ought to be clear what those questions should be. Who By Water doesn't manage this, and so while it's interesting enough to watch there's no compulsion to do so, no draw. As with some other parts of the EIFF 2008 Black Box Shorts programme it might be best served by presentation in a gallery rather than a cinema: if only because when bored by a film in a video vitrine it's easier to walk away.

Reviewed on: 03 Jul 2008
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Archive footage of boat passengers.

Director: Bill Morrison

Year: 2007

Runtime: 18 minutes

Country: US


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