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Australia, 1990 (MIFF 1991, Fiction)

Director: Jackie McKimmie

Jackie McKimmie's new film Waiting has the clever thumb-nail portraits of Australian types that we saw in her film Australian Dream minus the desperate nervous energy. Waiting has a peaceful heart and gives more reflective space to the consideration of "challenging personal choices". Waiting concerns itself with natural birth, surrogacy, infertility, career versus motherhood, female friendships, and the vexed question "Can a man be a feminist?" Could this be the flipside of thirtysomething? In this story of an eagerly awaited birth there, are no coy references to La Maze or pillows up the tummy or designer maternity wear. Waiting takes us by the scruff of the neck to stare at the full glory of maternal concerns and the maternal body.

In the bravura opening sequence the screen is filled with an underwater shot of a nine month pregnant, naked Noni Hazelhurst, swimming in a country river. We're in the Darling Downs but it could be a private cul de sac in the Blue Mountains or Nimbin. Noni (Clare) waddles up the hill to her rundown bush cottage to the tune of Doris Day's desperate paean to chance "Que Sera Sera". The film's ironic tone is set.

The invasion of Clare's house over the next few days by her helpful friends, with their barrage of questions and contexts as ihey come to support, witness and film the birth, is effectively drawn. Her house, her body - people seem to want to co-opt them for their own purposes. This central metaphor of the film is carefully relayed by the art direction, camerawork and editing - chaotic, claustrophobic and cutty. There's a compelling integration of thematics and style in Waiting that is refreshing to watch. It's also refreshing to see an accessible Australian comedy - drama willing to discuss certain important ideas and issues. Plainly, directly, amusingly.

The very notion of theory versus feelings is most clearly expressed via the plot device of the film-within-the-film. Here, the issue based doco being shot around Clare's situation is being set up as the theory that sits rather awkwardly on top of the practice of "life" - "life" being the fiction drama we are watching as the film progresses. Waiting turns documentary and fiction on their heads to some extent. This interesting process is actually one of the many delights in a film that gains resonance on reflection after the screening is over. - Annabelle Shehan

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