Thursday, 7 October 2010

Watching Movies In Riyadh

I love watching movies.  Preferably in a movie theater – the whole big screen, big sound, searching for your popcorn in the box with your eyes glued to the moving pictures is my kind of thing.  Of course, Riyadh doesn't have movie theaters.

Why not? Well, without having made an in depth study of the reasons, I’m guessing a dark movie theater offers far too much potential for ‘fraternizing’. And I’m guessing that the religious Powers That Be think western movies are only full of sex and sin.

They obviously haven’t watched Shrek 1, 2 and 3. No sex and sin to be found - at least not that I can remember. Crikeys! Maybe I’m so desensitized to sex and sin I don’t recognize it when I see it. How did Donkey mate with that dragon??

This article 'Saudi Arabian film shows theatreless kingdom', provides a little background on the fall of the Saudi movie theater. It seems the rumor bandied about that the muttawa are completely to blame is slightly off beam. Damn! There goes a usual scapegoat for Riyadh’s lack of fun things to do.

Last night, I wasn't feeling like socializing, I have a bit of a temperature, so instead of playing tennis I decided to make myself a TV dinner and watch a DVD. Glenn has built up a bit of a collection since taking up residence here.  I'd like to say it's all latest releases, 

Although we have a TV it is not connected to satellite – a decision I made to save me from myself.  If you read various sections of the Arab News (a.k.a The Green Truth), apparently I live in the perfect place for women to be saved from themselves.  I can plant my butt in front of a TV for considerable lengths of time when I have nothing meaningful to fill my existence, which at this point in time I don’t, so there you go.

Lack of satellite means we buy DVD’s. We could buy from a video store, but bets are on that all the juicy stuff has been cut out in this seriously Muslim country and not that artistically either. (I wonder if they cut any parts out of Shrek?).  And bringing large amounts of DVD's into the Magic Kingdom is a bit of a no-no.  There were a couple in my luggage when I first arrived - obviously not sufficient quantity to talk to me about, thankfully.  Anyway, in order for movie buffs to watch a DVD in its entirety, pirating flourishes in Riyadh.

And the quality can absolutely suck.

Not till I moved here have I watched a movie that has been recorded in the theater by one of the audience. The following are what you can expect to find in pirated movies in Riyadh:
  • Sound quality in some is so bad it’s as if someone went swimming with the video recorder.
    Result: Cursing man at the shop for daring to sell this crap.
  • The guy taping one movie we watched fell asleep and all you can hear, getting louder and louder, is his snoring.
    Result: 'What is that?  It's snoring! OMG. The mug taping this has fallen asleep and is snoring'.  We didn't know whether to laugh or be annoyed. 
  • If anyone coughs, titters or farts you hear that too.
    Result: Was that you? Don't lie, yes it was!
  • I love the ones where people in front stand up and walk out and back in again.
    Result: Did you see that?  Astonished look.  What was that? This is when I figured out this movie, which up till then was surprisingly good quality, was a fake.  (Three decades playing the game of life and I'm still so innocent).
Buying these shady DVD’s is an exercise in itself.  One evening we were eating ice-cream and wondering how to spend the rest of the night when The Husband suggested we go buy a DVD as 'the shop' was nearby.  He spoke to the guy at the counter, who nodded to the guy skulking away in the aisle.  Husband obviously understood this communication because he headed toward Skulk.  Skulk glanced around and bought out a paper bag.  In it were the DVD’s.  The Husband instructs me to have a look at those.  I, being so honest and innocent, put the bag on the shelf and started pulling DVD’s out.  Well, Skulk got a scary look on his face and tried to take back the bag.  The Husband crowded in quickly and explained that I was supposed to be looking ‘secretly’.  Oh crap! You’re seriously kidding!  OK. I can be... ‘secret’.

Anyway, last night, I suffered through yet another poor quality movie.  The story itself was OK, I just couldn't hear it unless the sound was turned right up, and everyone in the movie had this white hue surrounding them. So, I got out my trusty computer and started checking e-mails.

Glenn says, ‘You’re not even watching this movie’.

‘Yes I am. That guy just said ‘’He’s got a daughter”.

‘You’re not watching. You’re typing’.

‘I’m a woman. I multi-track’.

Glenn (sigh). ‘The quality is bad isn’t it?’


‘Let’s not buy DVD’s from that place any more’.

‘OK. Good plan’.

So, now if I want to watch a movie I’ll have to borrow one from someone else who can vouch for quality, or drive to Bahrain for the real movie theater deal.

Ka Kite,

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