top of page

Joëlle Wider

Originally from Switzerland and currently based in Lausanne, she embarked on her artistic journey in drama, transitioning from actress and director to a focus on street photography and documentary work. Exploring seriality and movement in photography led her to delve into cinema, where she fuses rhythmic elements with visual narratives to create poetic and polysemic experiences. Her work often revolves around themes of societal violence, power dynamics, and the intricacies of human connection and fragility. Collaboration and fluidity define her process, whether in filmmaking or multimedia development. Alongside her visual endeavors, she is deeply engaged in experimental sound work, particularly with Svea Jørwig. Over the years, she has contributed to the visual identities of numerous artists, theatre companies, and businesses through film production and web design. Notably, her film "My Body Suddenly Started Shivering" was honored as Best Experimental Short at Experimental Brasil 2024.


You've sent me questions to find out more? As I've already asked myself a lot of questions, I'll try to answer a few of them, in no particular order, many of them are intertwined


My background?

Polymorphous, starting with drama studies in Lausanne, Switzerland, followed by theatre work as an actress and director. And then the need to isolate myself, to seek my place in practices closer to me, no doubt to escape a certain regularity, a certain academic straitjacket too.

I'm quite frightened by this need to standardise our vision, to contain our imaginations and our insecurities with certainties, constants and standards.

I needed a more instinctive and sensual approach, free of canonical expectations. To develop a creative process that was less controlled, but also more fragile. I'm a person of the moment, I shun the expected. I hate the expected, what's the point of that?


What are my working themes?

My first two short films, without dialogue and with a musical score, are concerned with the forms of violence that normative society exerts on our bodies, our desires and our intimacy. The relationships of power and seduction that we impose on ourselves in an attempt to exist, to be visible. I'm trying to understand why, or for whom, we continue to exhaust ourselves constructing our own servitude.


Approach, process?

After a few years in the theatre, I started to work on seriality and movement in photography. First in the street, at political rallies. Observing bodies in the public space. The question of self-representation came naturally, or more simply, the history of our bodies in social practice, often captive to the gaze of others. Who are our gestures and postures for? A reflection intimately linked to the image, painful or happy, that society reflects back to us. Three photographic projects, a theatrical performance and an installation grew out of these reflections.


Following on from this, I felt the need to transpose this work on movement to the cinema. This time mixing photography with other media such as video and sound narration.

This device, in which different media collide, is interesting for the polysemic and poetic aspects it can unfold. In terms of aesthetics, I'm drawn to the pictorial, to black and white, to excessive contrasts and saturation.

With the actors, the process is organic, based on trial and error. After agreeing on an issue, the subjects are left to explore a new way of looking at themselves and their stereotypes, by questioning the collective and its strategy. Impros, personal archives and interviews are the emulating axes.


My purpose is to go beyond their awkwardness to reach that precise moment of vulnerability when we don't yet know where we're going, when something intuitive ends up organising itself without us, something that proves infinitely wilder and more violent in its relationship to the world.

My approach tends to remain contemplative, plastic and musical for as long as possible. As I know the dramaturgical background, I don't need to know the plot or the ending in advance. I focus on the fragility of imperfection, on the impromptu, on what happens to a scene, on whether or not it 'tries' to exist. I exhaust the moment and the actors with long sequence shots. Tiredness is a powerful revealer. A multitude of things are triggered over time. I look for motifs that repeat themselves, like the recurrence of a gesture or attitude. All I ask is that you come and look into the camera's eye from time to time, that you get closer to the viewer who is watching, that you ask the audience questions about this fiction that may not be a fiction at all.


Between the photos, videos and field recordings, I ended up collecting a lot of material. At first, it's a monster that frightens me. Then I gradually shape it, knead it, make it dirty, deteriorate it, destroy it to rediscover it in a different way. But above all it's a collective alchemy that emerges. I spend a lot of time in post-production, of course, setting up reading grids, dramatic tension and a narrative arc, and then I disperse the whole thing! I stay deliberately poetic and I'm not interested in telling the audience how they should feel. I just try to keep them awake.


At the same time, I've developed a musical collaboration with another artist, Svea Jørwig, who composes a new vocabulary for each film. The process is based on iteration. My collaborators are often members of my family, with a wide range of skills and backgrounds. They are not necessarily in the business, just like the actors. I work with very few resources, so there's very little pressure.


What inspires me?

The work of painters Egon Schiele, Louis Soutter and Francis Bacon. Béla Tarr's The Turin Horse particularly moved me. And a Sunday with my son, watching Wang Bing's West of the Rails. Sometimes I see Maya Deren's films, Nan Goldin's photographs, and a thousand and one other works. Every day I engage with the work of others.

There is no right or wrong way of expressing or questioning one's relationship with the world. There is above all a given moment, the gesture of an encounter, a place, a person, a sound, a light, that forms a single movement towards such accuracy, such radicality, such a powerful dramatic and poetic force that will impact your life and your projects. Whatever the degree of abstraction. This artistic gesture is rarely the work of a single person but of a shared experience - of course the director can plan everything on his own, but it is only the collective experience that will decide the final outcome of his film.


The future of cinema, in terms of technology and innovation?

Ah, of course, the Ai, the drone cameras with their abundance of viewpoints? Immersion, 3D etc......I don't know, Prometheus should have refrained from giving us fire.....haha.

We no longer know the real state of things, we've lost our understanding of what surrounds us, our notion of time, the time it takes for a feeling to emerge, the time it takes to express it, the time it takes for a posted letter to reach someone else, the time it takes to rethink what we've written, the experience of relating to others is dwindling. This is just one example of the time we've wasted thinking we were gaining.

We need to tell ourselves stories, to dream, to hope. But today, hope is expensive, it can take many unexpected forms, and we are capable of alienating or even killing each other for hope. How can we innovate hope? I don't know... how far do we need to go to claim to be innovating! We haven't yet understood that we've gone beyond the last staircase of our humanity. More generally, my feeling is that we are stubbornly stuck in a feeling of incompleteness, and that it's eating away at our relationship with life... innovate... I don't know... by taking a step back?


How do I see the role of cinema in today's society?

A window on our shared solitude? Discovering that our fragility can be a strength?

Learning more about ourselves?

The most rewarding moments?

When there's no budget. The time and trust that people give you.


The most difficult?

It's possible that not many people will see your film ..haha.

Also, a very warm thank you to the festival for its commitment.

bottom of page