Throughout February BFI Southbank is celebrating the remarkable career of groundbreaking director Waris Hussein. He was the youngest drama director to be employed by the BBC in 1960, and also the first director of South Asian descent.
He will be known to Doctor Who fans for being the first ever director on the series, bringing An Unearthly Child to the screen. He went on to direct eleven episodes of the Hartnell era. Modern viewers may remember seeing Waris portrayed by Sacha Dhawan in An Adventure in Space and Time, the 2013 50th Anniversary special drama following the creation of Doctor Who.
However this definitive season celebrates his illustrious career that included some of the
finest TV drama of the era, including the television play of A Passage to India (Play of the Month, BBC 1965) which came almost two decades before David Lean’s celebrated film; the screening of A Passage to India will be introduced by actor Virginia McKenna alongside Hussein on Tuesday 6 February.
On Sunday 11 February Ian McKellen will join Hussein for a discussion following a screening of A Touch of Love (1969), which follows Rosamund who finds herself pregnant from her first sexual encounter with a charming news announcer George, played by McKellen. McKellen also appeared in Hussein’s Hedda Gabler (Play of the Month, BBC 1972) alongside Dame Janet Suzman, who will join Hussein on Monday 19 February to introduce a screening of the play.
Hussein also belongs to that exclusive group of UK directors to have made it on both sides of the Atlantic, having won an Emmy for Copacabana (1985) starring Barry Manilow. The musical is based on the famous song and sees Manilow in a rare acting role as a pianist in Manhattan’s Copacabana Lounge. Hussein was also the first director on UK television to tackle the Aids crisis with Intimate Contact (Central TV, 1987), a series that made a huge and vitally important impact at a time when the disease was in full force but little understood. All four episodes of the series will screen on Sunday 25 February with an introduction from Hussein and actor Claire Bloom before Episode 3.
Other dramas screening in the season will include The Possession of Joel Delaney (1972) a chiller about demonic possession starring Shirley MacLaine, Chips with Everything (Play of the Month, BBC 1975) Hussein’s TV adaptation of Arnold Wesker’s play critiquing the British class system, and the rich and exotic romantic fable Three Weeks: Romance (Thames TV, 1977).