Directed by: #JaredWatmuff
Written by: #JaredWatmuff
A clause is such a small thing. An addendum to an existing law, and anyway, who reads the small print? Yet, something as simple as a few words indicating certain exceptions can have devastating consequences. The rape cause is a small clause tacked onto a law limiting child tax credits to only a parent’s first two children. While the law is already restrictive and Victorian in tone, the rape clause is incredibly destructive. The law does not apply if the other children were a product of rape. Maybe the clause was an initial attempt to be considerate towards sexual abuse victims, but in reality, when women go through the process of securing tax credits for their child, they have to relive the trauma and describe their abuse in detail.
Jared Watmuff’s short expertly conveys the destruction that this clause has caused. Angela (Maria Hildebrand) is attempting to claim tax credits for her son, who was conceived due to rape. There is only one other person in the room, Pamela Jikiemi playing the advocate. Although the advocate kindly assists Angela throughout the consultation, there’s a cloying intensity that’s inescapable. Angela is framed as though she is in a talking heads documentary; she stares down into the lens with a dull green wall behind her. The film is set up like a docudrama, but it is free of any hint of stilted staginess. Instead of simply representing the reality of this ugly law, we are forced headfirst into a deeply uncomfortable environment.
Anger and sadness burn behind the scenes. But, instead of a raw awkward recollection in the small office, Angela pulls the audience down to confront her buried memories. The past and the present aren’t neatly sliced together, but the past shreds into her present. There’s a deftness to Watmuff’s command of the cinematography. Instead of showing Angela’s abuser’s face, Watmuff repeats other parts of her memory that haunts her: the emptiness of the hallway and the steam from the iron. Her traumatic past trickles into the room and slowly overwhelms her. Thankfully, her recollection of the past never feels crudely tacked on or a gimmick to be played with.
Angela feels as though she is drowning, and as the audience watches, we too gasp for air. The Rape Clause is grounded in empathy and straightforward storytelling, but there’s an anger that burns and bubbles beneath and rightfully so. Even though the rape clause has been called “one of the most inhumane and barbaric policies ever to emanate from Whitehall”, it is still a functioning part of the law to this day.