Great couple of days in Bahrain, with the work side of things. On Friday, screening day, Ebrahim picked us up a bit after 10. He took us to his friend's restaurant for coffee and conversation and then we went out to the village of Dimistan. On the drive we had to pass a couple of police checkpoints. There continues to be unrest in the area, and with no freedom to assembly this typically manifests ias a burning tire which occasionally contains a small bomb. The police checkpoints mainly questioned about where we were from in Bahrain, because by village they can tell sectarian allegiance. Not that the unrest is necessarily religious, but the government paints it that way, Sunni vs Shiah.
We found Dimistan beach, finally. Ebrahim had never been before and it is off the beaten path. It is one of few public beachfronts in Bahrain. Most waterfront property is private. The big issue here we have learned is "reclamation" which refers to infilling seafront to create new property for private developers and owners. So the village of Dimistan was once on the sea, but now, because of reclamation, is 3 km from the sea. This is true all over Bahrain and something much discussed.
The screening site was really cool, with a small modern art installation and wide open space. When we arrived, the beach area was dead except for the workers setting up. After a while we went into the village to scout locations for the next day's shoot, but the town was dead. Ebrahim explained it is Friday, the weekend, so shops are closed and people are at prayer until late afternoon. So, we went and had lunch at Hardees, and it was very much like our Hardees at home (not that we go there much).
Then it was 3:30 and time for people to gather at the beach for the talk before the screening. We were surprised to find quite a number of people there, mostly Suha's architecture students and former students with an interest in film. But, sure enough locals started showing up, a few on horseback even, and attracted by the activity and free popcorn they stopped to check it out as Chad and I gave a pre-screening talk about our background and how we came to make the film, and about a few of the underlying historical factors that a Bahraini audience might not have at the tip of their mind. One of the co-organizers served as translator for this part.
When dark came we started the film, and though we lost most of the locals between the talk and the film starting (some tech difficulties), we had a good crowd still. Three little local boys (who Ebrahim later told us likely had little English and would have had trouble keeping up with the subtitles) stuck it out for more than half the film, perhaps drawn to the images, music and American voices.
A robust Q&A followed the screening, which was fun. There were many good questions and people seemed genuinely interested. It is nice to see the film translate to a global audience Many questions centered around the difference between the thesis presented by the film and how architects are taught about Pruitt-Igoe. It was really interesting.
At the hotel, Chad and I went up to the top-floor club to have a drink. We may have seen a Saudi prince, it is hard to tell. The place was certainly swank enough. Then we fell exhausted into bed - it was a long day.
Today was really great with our workshop. We had four eager participants. But I'll have to write more on that much much later.
Thursday night, before I forget, we ended up going out once the sandstorm died down. We took a taxi to the Sheikh Isa Cultural Center, which is their main library. They have an interesting array of international books, many in English. Then we walked to past the Grand Mosque to the Gulf Hotel, one of the nicest hotels on the island (nicer than ours even) that is more like a resort. Apparently, it used to be on the beach before so much reclaimed land was added, and today it is far from any cost. We were shocked when we were told the Gulf Hotel was once beach front. We enjoyed happy hour at their typhoon bar, kind of an island theme, where I posted a few pics to Facebook. We have so much Internet access here - it is free in many public areas and really fast at our hotel - whereas in Dubai we could never find wifi and our hotel only allowed us to connect one device to their wifi and it was kind of slow. After drinks we had dinner at Zahle, the #1 restaurant on Trip Advisor, Lebanese again like our first night meal in Bahrain. It was ok, but I think we're not wild about Lebanese food. For one thing, it is heavily reliant on lamb, which we don't eat. But we had a nice time and had a really funny taxi driver take us back to our hotel. We have found that Bahrainis are really nice and friendly and want to be helpful. At the library too, everyone was eager to show us anything we want. Sort of like the Midwest, so I guess in some ways, Bahrain feels like home!