Numax (Santiago de Compostela)

Open since March 2015, the Numax is a cinema set up as a non-profit workers’ cooperative where a bookshop, a café as well as a video and graphic creation lab are run side by side.

Nestled within walking distance from the historic centre of Santiago de Compostela, the Numax is the first cinema in Galicia exclusively showing films in their original version and is the unique screen in the town centre. Drizzle has been our companion since the beginning of our journey, and it is amongst their bookshop shelves that we find refuge. Jacques Tati DVD sets, the last issue of Les Cahiers du Cinéma available, and projection of Mauvais Sang by Leos Carax, are tributes of French cinema during our visit. Ramiro Ledo, head of the cinema and filmmaker, joins us at the bar to relate the origins of the project. « If all cinemas shut down, in order to see films, you have to open your own cinema », starts Ramiro.

If all cinemas shut down, in order to see films, you have to open your own cinema

In 2013, the five founders, Ramiro Ledo, Irma Amado, Pablo Cayuela, Xosé Carlos Hidalgo et Antonio Doñate, partnered up to create the Numax. The name of the cinema was directly inspired from Joaquín Jordá’s documentary, Numax Presenta… : in the film a group of workers from the household appliances factory Numax get organised to take over production in an self-managed form. Following two years of hard work, they decided to change life, to give up the production chain and to fund this film with the last 600 000 pesetas remaining from their resistance savings. Echoing that story, creating the Numax was the opportunity for the team to deeply re-think the running structure for cultural venues and the relationships between workers. It is a form of creative response to the recession, a tangible answer for changing work conditions.

The natural follow up to these ideas was to favour an alternative to banks to finance the project: the credit cooperative Coop 57. However, in order to receive agreement for a 300 000€ loan, they still needed sound guarantors. This is how they decided to reach out to the community through a public campaign. « The whole campaign was very detailed and transparent, it was like a leitmotiv. We reported everything, including our salary, which is the same for all of us. » explains Ramiro. The 182 people who answered the public appeal allowed the Numax to be granted the necessary loan for the implementation of the project, through becoming guarantors for sums going from 1000 to 5000€. From their part, the founders brought 8000€ each, and were supported by the scholar and university professor Margarita Ledo Andión who completed the funding gap with 24 000 € in social capital. « We have a network in Santiago de Compostela and a strong relationship with the community. It would have been impossible to set up this project elsewhere because it needed this closeness relationship going a bit beyond the professional investment. It would have been impossible to find 182 guarantors elsewhere, and even if many are from other parts of the world (Brazil, Paris, London), 80% are locals. », underlines Ramiro. On top of this community finance was added a grant for company creation from the FEDER Fund in Galicia. The Numax received no subsidy for digitalisation nor running expenses.

Once the funding gathered, Habitat Social – an architects collective also set up as a workers coop- tackled the conception and building of the cinema. On March 13th 2015, the 182 guarantors had the pleasure to attend the first projection at the Numax. The Aki Kaurismäki film Drifting Clouds was shown, and when the director heard it would be screened, he surprised the team and the audience by turning up to celebrate the opening with them. Five months later the cinema has already welcomed an audience of 10 800, seducing a mixed public of all ages, with newcomers each week.

With two new films playing each week, the programming of the cinema is structured around 3 main lines: first, films in their original language, digitalised heritage films, and a research section called « Green Eyes »1 with films that re-think ways of seeing and narrating such as The Joycean Society by Dora García, Lejos de los árboles by Jacinto Esteva or Letters to Max by Eric Baudelaire. « The idea is to play films that are not being distributed in Spain. We are people from the cinema industry who enjoy watching films, who write reviews, study the art, and we attend festivals to discover films. We would be happy to present numerous films that never reached audiences and present them with the same technical quality as other films. » finishes Ramiro.

Beyond the film projections, the institute houses other activities: a bookshop, a video and graphic creation lab, and a bar, which were brought together with their specific operating needs and gathered to coincide naturally. « Rethink each activity and integrate it within a new ensemble is a demanding creative process » assures Irma who is in charge of the bookshop and develops numerous bridges with the programming, such as reading lists suggested by the directors who are shown at the cinema.

The video and graphic creation lab is a studio located in the basement and designs all visuals for the NUMAX. There is a distinct attention given to the graphic charter of the place, adapted on all supports (cinema tickets, information boards, screen sheets, bags and other goodies), demonstrating the care of the team for each detail in order to create a coherent ensemble with a strong identity.

Beyond this internal work, the Lab proposes its services for graphic conception, audio-visual production and post-production (editing, standardisation, DCP fabrication, subtitles creation, etc). The Lab designed a graphic work for the Sinsal festival which led to an extended activity of creating trailers projected before the show.

Each of the workers is in charge of a department, but all of their activities get intertwined with others. Workers also gather on a common rotating position of welcoming the public. A new partner, Cris Ultreia Silva, has joined the founders’ team during the first running months.

Not long ago, the Numax set for a new challenge: the release of their first film as a distributor on the 4th of September with Los Hongos by Colombian director Oscar Ruíz Navia; they will programme it themselves and create all the production tools via the Lab.

Driven by pioneering spirit and the fruit of relentless work, the Numax team won a prize this year for best cooperative project in Galicia and is full of ideas for the future: developing production, continuous innovation and partnering up in order to be stronger. In short: create the place of their dreams.


1 Reference to Marguerite Duras : Green Eyes was the title of pictures compilation and texts gathered by Duras in June 1980, when she was invited by Les Cahiers du Cinémas to edit a special issue.

Translation by Eva Jaurena ♥