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Bahrain Video Special: Turning a Police-Supported Mob into Political Comedy

Last week, shocking CCTV footage surfaced of a raid on a Bahrain supermarket, owned by the Jawad Group, a long-time target of harassment by loyalist groups.

A mob of young men streamed into the shop, smashing and stealing with impunity. Police eventually arrived on the scene, but rather than react with tear gas and mass arrests, they appeared to support the looters or, at a minimum, are acquiesce in their actions.

There is something surreal and comedic about the footage, to the point where one wonders if it might actually have happened. This perhaps was the inspiration for "Cam 3", the latest short film by Bahrana Drama:

Young men ransack a makeshift shop, one stuffing every item he can find into his clothing, but in the tradition of slapstick, they smash each other as much as the property. A herd of goats roars through the store, trampling all that is left. Security forces in flourescent bibs eventually arrive and give the men a welcoming hug, as another dutifully films all the action. The officers helpfully point out the CCTV camera to the looters, just as they did in the actual raid.

Beyond the mirth and the mockery, there is a serious dimension. Or rather, the mirth and the mockery --- and the process behind it --- is deeply serious and significant. The video takes an incident of troubling collusion between security forces and civilian gangs and pulls out the sting of intimidation. It portrays the protection of all Bahraini citizens by police as a hollow and laughable facade, with the gangs that threaten the people and property as mindless herds, bereft of independence and dependent on the State for their run of the land. This is a sentiment central to the lived experience of many in Bahrain, especially in the villages outside Manama, where daily protests for democracy encounter the solid obstacle of security forces.

With wit and a wry smile, the video uses the energy of resistance to post a message to a local and global audience, able to circulate outside and around the often rigid policing of protest.

This episode of "creative resistance" is, of course, far from new in the Bahrain revolution; it is integral to it --- for further examples, see the videos posted on the blogs of Marc Owen Jones and Chan'ad Bahraini.

Yet this creativity and construction remains, like the daily village protests, too often lost amidst the spectacle of tear gas and Molotovs. And sometimes, like the temporary street memorial made for murdered citizen journalist Ahmed Ismael Hassan, constructive efforts are trampled and destroyed by those who seek to sustain the show of violence, rather than the significance of peaceful resistance and social craft, in the public mind.

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