Zanzibar was a collective of artists whose cinema was poetic and aesthetically avant-garde. This movement was born out of 1968, the year that sought to invert the relationship between ethics and aesthetics typically assigned to avant-garde movements. Is not Zanzibar, beyond its aesthetic concerns, an ethical manifesto?
Zanzibar centered around Sylvina Boissonnas, who acted as one of those true patrons of the arts of yesteryear to an entire group of young people (mostly under 25), filmmakers and artists, students, painters, models, actors, technicians, etc. Among them, Jackie Raynal, Rohmer's editor; Patrick Deval, filmmaker, and high school friend of Daney and Skorecki; Daniel Pommereulle, conscientious objector and non-painter; Serge Bard, who had not yet become an anthropologist; Philippe Garrel, Pierre Clémenti, Juliet Berto, Alekan, Zouzou... Rebellious young people driven by both a desire to break the rules and a complete indifference to those very same rules. In Zanzibar there was, in its brilliance, something about its punk-ness that wouldn't explode until ten years later. Between 1968 and 1970, fifteen films were made. And then it ended. Extremely fast shoots using the bare minimum, an aesthetic of nakedness and radicalism. A hallucinatory and mystical kind of filmmaking that borrows its poetics from underground, even experimental, filmmaking. A cinema that called for the end of meaningfulness, to use a phrase by Jackie Raynal in her film Deux Fois.
Born amongst the barricades of Paris, where they learned that filmmaking can act as a pamphlet, they take their name from Zanzibar, an island that was Maoist at the time. More like Warhol's Factory than Renault's, the cinema of Zanzibar is, nevertheless, political in its artistic, convention-destroying act. This is perhaps its line of ethics: destroy art in order to destroy politics. The consciousness of cinema prevailed over the cinema of consciousness. If 1968 was the start of a new society, it was a new beginning for filmmaking as well. And Zanzibar helped bring cinema back to square one.
Franck Lubet, Head of Programming at the Cinémathèque of Toulouse
Filmoteca Española and Documenta Madrid