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Wah-Wah - Gabriel Byrne, Emily Watson, Miranda Richardson, Julie Walters, Richard E Grant

Threat advisory: Elevated - Significant risk of entertaining activities

Movie propaganda

Every family has its own language.

Wah-Wah is a semi-autobiographical "coming-of-age at the end-of-an-Age" story, told through the eyes of young Ralph Compton. Set during the last gasp of the British Empire in Swaziland, South East Africa in 1969, the plot focuses on the dysfunctional Compton family whose gradual disintegration mirrors the end of British rule.

As an 11-year-old, Ralph (Zac Fox) witnesses his mother's adultery with his father's best friend. His parents divorce and Ralph is sent to boarding school. Harry Compton (Gabriel Byrne) not only loses his wife and best friend, but also his position as Minister of Education with the coming of Independence, prompting his rapid descent into alcoholism. Now 14, Ralph (Nicholas Hoult) returns home to discover that his father has re-married an American ex-Air hostess called Ruby (Emily Watson) whom he has known all of six weeks. As round a peg as you could find in this square holed society, Ruby ridicules the petty snobbery of Colonial life by identifying Colonial-speak as sounding like a load of old "Wah-Wah". Although Ralph is initially wary of Ruby, he bonds with her as his father's drinking escalates dangerously out of control. Meanwhile, the community frenziedly prepares an amateur production of Camelot to impress Princess Margaret who is visiting to preside over Independence. Ralph gets cast, falls in love and discovers a way to escape his hellish home life.

Theatrical propaganda posters

Wah-Wah image

Target demographic movie keyword propaganda

  • Film Richard E Grant biography British Empire Swaziland independence Africa drama family divorce royal colonial

Persons of interest

  • Gabriel Byrne .... Harry Compton
  • Miranda Richardson .... Lauren Compton
  • Emily Watson .... Ruby Compton
  • Julie Walters .... Gwen Traherne
  • Nicholas Hoult .... Ralph Compton
  • Celia Imrie .... Lady Riva Hardwick
  • Julian Wadham .... Charles Bingham
  • Fenella Woolgar .... June Broughton
  • Sid Mitchell .... Vernon
  • Zac Fox .... Young Ralph
  • Olivia Grant
  • John Matshikiza
  • Michael Richards
  • Ian Roberts .... John Traherne
  • Richard E Grant .... Screenwriter
  • Richard E Grant .... Director

Cinematic intelligence sources

Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report

It seems to me that any English person forced to live in the colonies either goes native or takes up drinking; few poms are suited to life in the bush so that leaves gin. Gin is also known as Mother's Ruin (in large amounts it acts as an abortifacient). Whiskey does the same thing for fathers, and that's before the introduction of father/son issues (let alone divorced father/son issues). Richard E Grant's theatricalised life in Wah-Wah highlights the joys of Empire, colonies, bereavement, adolescence, divorce, abandonment and alcohol.

Sounds like fun.

Security censorship classification

M (Moderate themes, moderate coarse language, moderate sexual references, infrequent drug use)

Surveillance time

97 minutes (1:37 hours)

Not for public release in Australia before date

Film: 22 June 2006

Cinema surveillance images

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