Chairman of the Bahrain Cinema Scene, talks with us about what the cinema culture in Bahrain is like:
Can you please give us a brief background on the Bahrain Cinema Club?
Bahrain Cinema Club was established by Bahraini film enthusiasts years ago. I believe it was set up in the early 1980s by Bahraini film lovers of those days and we have since been under the umbrella of the Ministry of Culture.
What role do you play in the Club?
I am the Chairman of the Board of the Bahrain Cinema Club. The board is elected every two years – and even though it has been all voluntary – and consists of seven members, so each of us get the role every two years. The board is also varied and consists of people from different professions. For example, two or three of us are businessmen, we also have directors, script writers and movie lovers and we constantly encourage the new generation to join us on the Board.
Do you also help produce movies?
We want to but unfortunately at the moment we cannot. As I mentioned it is all voluntary work and with our limited budget, we invest it on bettering the club which is based in the Juffair area and provided to us by the Ministry.
What is the exact role of the club?
We try to spread awareness for non-commercial movies. Most of the movies that are presented are all commercial and in Bahrain there isn’t an industry for other films, so every Wednesday at 7pm we show a different movie and try to enhance the film culture in Bahrain.
What kind of films are screened at the club?
Good but mostly non-commercial films. Since our audience consists of mixed expats and Bahrainis, we screen movies that are good but are not screened in the cinemas. We bring out movies that are festival-favourites and we bring them from all over the world such as America, China, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and India.
Is there a specific genre of films that you screen?
No, we show movies of all genres. We have a group of people in the Club to select the movies and we create the film-schedule for the whole month.
How do you encourage filmmakers in Bahrain to proceed with their career?
We encourage every single person in Bahrain, Bahraini or not, to utilise our club to show their films, we also advise them and have workshops from time to time. The workshops are carried out by Bahraini experts like directors and script writers, we have musicians on board as well who help with these workshops. There have been a lot of festivals in the past 10-15 years, especially around the GCC such as the Dubai Film Festival (which takes place in April), the Dubai International Film Festival, the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, and THIMUN The Qatar Northwestern Film Festival, and in these film festivals a lot of Bahrainis participate. When they go as a group, they screen 5-10 movies and these are short films that don’t have a market otherwise. People will not watch these short films unless they are shown at such festivals as they cannot be screened in the cinemas since they are short films and every time Bahrainis participate in these kind of film festivals, we do a week-long festival for them in Bahrain for them to show their work here as well. That’s one of the way we encourage Bahraini filmmakers. We also allow all filmmakers in Bahrain to use our club at any time if they want to do a workshop or sit and discuss ideas. Last year the Ministry of Culture supported 13 Bahraini short films which was also quite encouraging for them.
The purpose of the club is to be there for all Bahrainis and non Bahrainis to come and watch the movies. Our main thing is the weekly screenings of the movie and we also do workshops from time to time and we encourage filmmakers to make films.
We also participate and help other parties like when Bahraini bodies want to do screenings, such as the recent screenings organised by the Ministry of Culture which were based around the theme of the sea and were called “Cinema Days – Sea Cinema” which took place between November 26-30 2014. In December, for National Day celebrations, the films were then screened again at the Bahrain National Museum and what we do is help them with the logistics of these screenings.
Do you think Bahraini movies can achieve cult status in the Gulf or elsewhere, if they were English language films?
Yes. Bahraini filmmaker Bassam Al-Tawadi is the guru, or godfather of the Bahraini film industry. He made his first feature film in 1990 and he has done four feature films since. From them on, mostly there has been a focus on making short films. Recently, however, in 2014, young Bahraini director Mohammad Rashed BuAli created his first feature film and he got a lot of support from the Ministry of Information and from Dubai. His film is called “Alshajarah Alnaemah” (A Sleeping Tree) and this is the film he will also be displaying at the film festivals.
What direction do you see the Bahrain Cinema Club headed into?
For us, the main thing is to show the films and for that we need to have the halls, in which the films are shown on the big screens, renovated. We also hope to have more workshops and also would like to issue a quarterly journal about the news and updates in the cinema in Bahrain.
Films are screened between 7pm-9pm every Wednesday. Entrance for members is free.
Address: The Bahrain Cinema Club is situated in Juffair, on Juffair Avenue.
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