April 2012

If you are ready for a movie that is no way entertaining, or fun, or diverting, but one that gives an unflinching, disturbing, and ultimately inspiring on-the-ground view of the uprising of self-determination and the quest for freedom, here is a great one.

Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark is a riveting documentary produced by Al Jazeera television, composed almost entirely of footage captured as it happened, amidst the people who rose up in 2011 to demand greater freedom and representation in this island nation. The protestors were met with brutal repression and reprisals, and the government, supported by the military force of its neighbor Saudi Arabia, succeeded — for now at least — in shutting down the most visible signs of the uprising.

There is no happy ending, other than an evocative indication that the voices of the people have not been silenced, and the hope that there will come a time when they can be fully expressed. The bravery on display here, speaking truth to power even when that power is ruthlessly repressive, is thrilling.

The Bahraini protests are part of that global wave of awakening that was born in the Arab Spring and also manifested in the Wisconsin protests and the Occupy movement. All these protests have been met with varying degrees of backlash and repression, though we in America have seen nothing like the violent reaction that has been evident in the Arabian region.

We have grown used to documentaries, in this post-Michael Moore world, that tell us more about the point of view of their director than the subject of the film. Such documentaries are elaborately scripted stories, carefully crafted into extended polemics. No film can escape a point of view, of course, but Shouting in the Dark stands out as a vibrant record of events rather than a sophisticated attempt to convince its audience of the director’s vision. What is remarkable about this film is that it is not a retrospective work of research or analysis; it captures the immediacy of events in a way that has rarely been seen before.

May Ying Welsh, the director, is a Western journalist who somehow was able to stay and film throughout the protests and the government crackdown. The film has won the Foreign Press Association Documentary of the Year award in London, the George Polk Award for Excellence in Journalism and the Scripps Howard Jack R. Howard Award for Television Reporting

It can be seen in full, in HD quality, on YouTube.