Zumzeig Cinema and Bistro sits behind an inconspicuous facade on Carer de Bejar, a narrow residential street in Sants-Mantjuic. Although this Barcelona neighbourhood is home to hundreds of bars, restaurants and cafés, it isn’t a tourist destination. It’s the sort of unpretentious quarter that gives a feeling of being culturally alive but also lived in. For Zumzeig, the simplicity of the blue and white awnings of its façade belies the sophistication of its interior design and the philosophical, almost political nature of its cinematic offering.
There is something a little magical about Zumzeig Cooperative Cinema. The catalan word is an onomatopoeia referring to the buzz of bumblebees, Esteban Bernatas, the cinema’s founder, explains. By flying, with their big bodies and tiny wings, bumblebees seem to defy the laws of physics. Like the bumblebee, Zumzeig, a passion project with social good at its heart, shouldn’t be able to exist in a big city, but it does – stylishly and seemingly without effort.
“We believe in popular cinema, accessible to everyone, and at affordable prices.”
Run as a not-for-profit cooperative, the cinema balances the need to cover costs with a commitment to showing interesting independent cinema in all its forms: art films; documentaries; auteur cinema; and bizarre forgotten treasures, while the casual bistro serves contemporary French food with zero-miles produce and almost no waste. But all this refinement is not to be mistaken for film snobbery; the cooperative’s manifesto states “We believe in popular cinema, accessible to everyone, and at affordable prices.”
Zumzeig positions itself as an agent with a very particular role to play within the city: to expand minds through a ‘pedagogy of the look’, the pedagogical task being to view film from outside normal, narrow frames of reference. If there is something very earnest about all this, it is balanced by a sense of sharing the joy of the cinema experience and, as is evident from the small, well designed spaces – the incomparable importance of style.
Lily Keil is Senior Editor at Right Angle Studio. She trained and worked as an editor at Melbourne University Publishing before freelancing for four years. She has been published in magazines such as Meanjin, January Biannual and Higher Arc and was a co-editor of Good Sport magazine in 2016. Her childhood in remote Tasmania may be the origin of her abiding fascination with cities.
Images courtesy of Zumzeig Cooperative