Last Thursday I went to the Hussein Cultural Center to enjoy the most anticipated movie of the 22nd European Film Festival in Jordan – the Prophet. We turned up an hour early, and ended up being literally trapped in a small glass smoking room for two hours – with the only toilets in the entire building out of reach in the area beyond. Women who needed a drink or to sit down were told by boorish bouncer type organizers to stay put and ‘wait for just five more minutes.’
The previous act finished over half an hour late. It took the audience an age to leave the building. About 20% of those who turned up for the movie (including the Ambassador’s whose embassies had supported the event itself) just went home after being released. I wish I’d had their self-discipline.
After slipping through the door I went to the restroom, and the minute I came out some JO tried to put me in a headlock and force me back into the room! When it looked like things were about to kick off, a middle aged lady told me ‘you’re completely right’ and a girl in a headscarf literally had to throw herself on top of the guy involved to calm him down.
Then the organizer (who’s usually very good) arrived, and told me ‘this was completely normal’ and things ‘were beyond her control’. Parting salvo: “This is an art event, not a football stadium” as well as obnoxious words like ‘disgrace’ and one or two colorful adjectives 😦
Anyway this was the scene.
Jordan’s cultural scene is superb – the events are smart, wide ranging, usually well organized and executed with taste. Even if things start late, that’s fine if people are agreeable. The people who work in this field do so because they care about it and, in the case of the RFC, happen to be really good at what they do.
As for the artists – even wonder why galleries are often so calm, or screenings tend to take place in comfortable or inviting surroundings? Because they want their work to be enjoyed, and given the attention it deserves.
As cultural events become larger in Jordan, I hope they retain their quirkiness, their friendliness, and their openness to anyone vaguely interested… while staying hermetically sealed to the corrosive effect of those who couldn’t care less.