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    Councillor for Culture and Governance


    Gonzalo Olabarria. Councillor for Culture and Governance City Council of Bilbao.

    Cinemas have faced many difficult months. Prudence and public health meant that it was advisable for the capacity of enclosed spaces for public use, such as cinemas, to be limited (and greatly at some times). As we progressively come out of the pandemic and things improve, why, as we argue, do people have to return to watching films at the cinema?

    If that question had been asked two years ago, I do not believe that the answer would have had anything to do with the one given by the audiences that have already returned to the cinema. We used to think about whether we went to the cinema to pursue our dreams, about whether we believed that we would find images and sounds, ideas and other experiences in that darkened room that would make us reconsider our view of the world.

    After the long months of the scourge of the pandemic, those answers are those same ones, and continue to be fully valid, but others that are the result of the pressing urgency should be added to those powerful reasons – and others that I have not mentioned –. First, because the experience of watching films at the cinema, even if only because we do it less frequently, is a very different experience to watching it in the lounge at home. We knew that before the pandemic and we know it even better now. But apart from the ritual of going to the cinema, we should now also mention the earnings that allow cinemas to survive and to let us continue with that ritual dating back over 125 years. If we do not continue with the good habit of going to the cinema, we will be lamenting its disappearance within a few years. And in answer to those people who believe I am exaggerating, I should point out that over a third of the people in Spain lived in towns without cinemas three years ago.

    In our society, we cannot imagine a world without films, but there are increasing more and more children and young people that can imagine a world without cinemas. They say that nostalgia can be beneficial, but we often succumb to despair and the ‘really important’ things of our lives. Cinema (without which we cannot imagine the world) becoming ‘content’ is perhaps on what its viability depends.

    In November of each year, ZINEBI offers the residents of Bilbao a varied range of cultural items from around the world. Many of the films will not have been previously available in Spain and, without festivals such as ZINEBI, we perhaps could never discover them. We have an unrivalled opportunity to help to ensure that the cinema, in the not-too-distant future, is still the place for films.