Monday, 23 November 2015

Waiting Room (1981, Anwar Kawadri)

While we’re on the subject of Anwar Kawadri, the person who brought Claudia to youtube has also uploaded a couple more of his feature films there (Nutcracker, Out of Time) as well as a sadly non-English language friendly documentary on the man himself. The real discovery amongst this bunch however is a ‘woman in peril’ short film by Kawadri –made in-between the commercial sexploitation of Sex with the Stars and the underwhelming Joan Collins vehicle Nutcracker-that appears to have flew under everyone’s radar until its appearance on youtube. From an era when Eady money was a huge encouragement to make short films in Britain, Waiting Room (1981) stars Ken Russell favourite Georgina Hale as a woman who finds herself being stalked by a blind man at a near deserted railway station then raped by him in the nearby countryside, only for the rape to eventually turn out to be a figment of her imagination, and the man in question to harbour far greater sexually deviant desires.

Waiting Room undoubtedly feels more taboo today than in would have in 1981, indeed it is an achievement (of sorts) just how much potentially offensive subject matter it manages to cram in within the space of only 16 minutes. There is enough contentious material here to explode the heads of those sensitive, but never shy of self-publicity, souls who show up in ‘Its Alright to take a Shit on the 1970s/80s/90s’ type TV shows, what with a man who is both black and blind depicted as a sinister sexual predator, the inappropriate use of a child actress, and a rape scene in which Hale’s character begins to enjoy the experience. Several aspects of the film can be defended up to a point, with the bulk of the film being a fantasy played out in the head of a sad, left on the shelf, middle aged woman whose mind evidently harbours deeply closeted masochistic rape fantasies and less closeted racist preconceptions about black men. Problematic though is the ‘twist’ ending which seems to validate and justify her racism rather than take the opportunity to subvert or challenge it by having the man go against her preconceptions.

Still if the modus operandi here was to trouble and shock an audience within a very brief amount of time then it is impossible to deny that Waiting Room is successful in its aims. The ending in which Hale’s character is complaisant in the blind man’s abduction of his real target, the identity (and more specifically the age) of his intended victim, and the final glances exchanged between Hale and the person being whisked away to the kind of sexual abuse that Hale’s character can only fantasise about, is the most disturbing denouement which I’ve seen on film in a long time. Waiting Room might well be Kawadri’s best realised work. It is handsomely and expertly shot by ace exploitation film cinematographer Peter Jessop, and Kawadri displays a flair for suspense as well as tapping in to that sense of isolation, vulnerability and lack of interaction that you do genuinely get from British railway stations. The near absence of any dialogue also renders the constant thumping of the blind man’s cane against the ground a brilliantly intimidating device that dominates the soundtrack.

I suspect Waiting Room originally went out theatrically in Britain as the supporting short to ‘The Rise and Fall of Idi Amin’. This and the Amin film were the only two submissions made to the BBFC by short lived distributor ‘Twin Continental Film Services Ltd’, and The Rise and Fall of Idi Amin’s director Sharad Patel takes a ‘presents’ credit on Waiting Room. Making this racially charged pairing a canny, if incendiary, drop in on the immediately post Brixton riots Britain of 1981.

Link: Waiting Room on Youtube


K. M. Hazel said...

Hi. Thanks for this. Really well made short. Great to see Georgina Hale again. I remember seeing a number of these short films made in the 80s. The best of them, I thought, and one I've not seen since, was about a girl being stalked in an underground car park. I think it starred Belinda Mayne. Would love to see this one again.

gavcrimson said...

any idea of that short film's title? anything from the early 1980s with Belinda Mayne in it sounds worthy of further investigation.