Zumzeig (Barcelona)

Launched in October 2013 in Barcelona, the cinema bistro Zumzeig is a lively place screening and distributing independent movies.

Esteban Bernatas, who initiated the Zumzeig, has been working on this endeavour since 2008. His idea was to create a screening room with a non-standard movie programming to enrich the cinematographic offer in Barcelona, but also to prompt encounters between film-lovers by creating a meeting place with a bistro.  The Zumzeig is an onomatopoeia meaning “buzz” in Catalan in reference to bumblebees, those insects that should not be able to fly according to aerodynamics laws, but still can!

We are here to take risks, screen movies from young directors and try to foster this emergence.

Five years were necessary to scout the location and launch the cinema bistro. The set up was far from easy: the complexity to gain licenses and authorizations to start the construction works, and afterwards to open the place, slowed the process down. The movie theater opened on October 2nd 2013 with a launch party in the bar, and two days later, three first features were offered to the audience: Encirclement – Neo- Neoliberalism ensnares Democracy by Richard Brouillette, Atomic Age by Héléna Klotz and Dragonslayer by Tristan Patterson.

The Zumzeig screens independent cinema in every shape and form: international long features, art movies, medium-length films, experimental features, the idea being to approach an “Research & Discovery” programming à la française. “We do not operate on a short-term profitability, we try to maintain movies on screen as long as possible to arouse the word-of-mouth” explains Guillaume Mariès, in charge of the cinema. More than a local movie theater, this place appears as a permanent movie festival. Facing a weak independent movie distribution in Spain, the Zumzeig has launched a special screening session entitled “Indescribable cinema” (cine incalificable). This label regroups all the movies that the team discovered in international festivals and wants to offer to the Catalan public but that are not distributed in the country. Screenings are organized in agreement with the right-holders of these out-of-the-circuit movies. “This space allows us to show more experimental movies, more research movies, that will unfortunately never be released in Spain. The Indescribable cinema is the Zumzeig touch,” adds Guillaume Mariès. As part of these “Indescribable cinema” sessions, they notably screened the movie Mercuriales  by Virgil Vernier, The girl from nowhere from Jean-Claude Brisseau and We Come As Friends from Hubert Sauper. For the Zumzeig team, the cinema has an important role to play in support of the directors “These are the principal functions of a screening room: we are here to take risks, screen movies from young directors and try to foster this emergence.

Many events complete the programming. The Zumzeig punctually screens experimental movies on film in collaboration with the Crater Lab laboratory, which facilitate the coming of films and filmmakers. A long-distance collaboration with the Rotterdam Festival has grown via the IFRR LIVE event: a part of the festival selection (five movies in 2015) is screened at the same time in European cinemas. After the movie screening, the audience can ask questions (via the social network Twitter) to the director who is live from Rotterdam (via the videoconference software Skype). They also welcomed BAR PROJECT, an artist residence in Barcelona, which has curators coming from all over the world. During several months, they were able to broadcast video art and, to celebrate their first anniversary, they invited the artist Isabelle Lewis to direct a performance in the cinema, fully re-decorated for the occasion.

The bistro is a convivial place allowing the cinema to extend its offer and to welcome a broader audience “People can have a drink before the movie or have a bite after. When they come here, they know they can talk with the director after the screening, that the people are approachable, it’s not formal at all.” The Zumzeig is not only an exhibition place but also a friendly living area in a broader sense. The graphic identity of the space is particularly neat, the team called for example to the designer Pierre La Police’s services for their promotion material (silkscreen posters, advertisements in the So Film magazine). Its public is mainly local and it seems impossible to provide an accurate profile of the typical Zumzeig audience member: Catalans, people from the neighborhood, inner-city youth, seniors.

The challenge is to make this space durable over the long term and to have the people coming out of trust and interest for the programming. They’re also more widely looking to federate a loyal audience coming together around shared values, not only throughout the screened movies but also throughout a life philosophy. Last October, they welcomed the international cyclist movie festival, Rueda with an exclusive selection of bicycle movies. The Zumzeig sticks to its line “We’re never as good as when were radical. I think we should stick with our niche and people who recognize themselves in it come.

The young team has also launched a distribution activity, Zumzeig Distribución, in the same spirit as their screening program “Adventurous movies we want to show to the people.” The idea being to bring something different in the overview of what is released in Spain. “Movie distribution in Spain is very difficult. The number of independent screening rooms is limited, the art-house circuit is just starting to develop, there are no subsidies, movies are quickly ejected.” Nevertheless, after distributing 6 movies since 2013, they’re now thinking to temporarily leave aside this activity which demands a substantial investment in time and money.

Born of broadcasting new types of cinematography in Barcelona necessity, the Zumzeig is a space intimately related to Esteban Bernatas’ passion for independent cinema “We thought and lived the screening room as potential audience members.

Translation by Garance Boulet ♥