A friend of mine recently found out about a new place opening in Prague and shared the information on Facebook. It was a bar – which isn’t really my thing – but what intrigued me was that it was also being advertised as a screening room. Not a cinema, a screening room. A hybrid space for film connoisseurs and taste-makers.
Prague is actually an excellent city for film lovers and, aside from the big-ticket cinemas like CineStar and Cinema City, there are a wealth of independent cinemas like Bio Oko and the new Edison Film Hub as well as summer pop-up cinemas (I recently posted about the summer cinema our friends at Žluté Lazné just wrapped for the season – you can read about it here, but you’ll have to wait for summer to roll around again to experience it).
Being a fan of cinema, I was intrigued about this new venture so I set up a meeting with owner Payam Razi and headed over a few nights after their Grand Opening party which, based on the pictures from the night posted to their Facebook, was a smashing success.
I took the Number 8 tram from Dejvice across the river and down to the Těšnov tram stop (not too far from Florenc) and walked down Petrská street toward Petrské Náměstí.
I actually passed it at first and ended up in the square. There isn’t any traditional signage, just the screenshot logo in the window – like the “finder” in a viewfinder – which makes it feel almost like a secret club, the kind of place you need a password to get into… but don’t worry, no password required. Just a love of good drinks, cool vibes, and great films.
Once I found my way back I entered a cozy, dimly lit bar and made my way to a table along the wall. It was mid-week but there were a few customers there enjoying cocktails. A short time later, Mr. Razi showed up and he brought along his film programmer Milan Dostál.
Razi first wanted me to see the screening room so we quickly made our way downstairs.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
The building Screenshot is located in dates back to the 1300s, before the foundation of New Town, and the screening room itself is surrounded by stone work dating back some 647 years.
Razi actually had a good sense of what he needed in terms of the space. He knows Prague quite well and though he hadn’t really spent much time in New Town, he had a feeling he might find a good spot there. He didn’t want to be in a very crowded neighborhood, but also hoped he could find a space that was convenient to get to – particularly in a city with great public transport. He searched for some time, because he needed a basement for the screening room and wanted additional space that could be used for other events as well.
Eventually he found Petrská 4 which is actually a historic building (there’s even a book about its history). As luck would have it, he was walking by right as a lease sign was going up in the window. The entire building is owned by a woman who wanted someone whose idea for the space would be respectful of its history while embracing its present and in terms of preparing the location has been extremely supportive.
THE SET – A COZY SPACE FOR FILM LOVERS
Downstairs, I took a seat in Screenshot’s 40 seat screening room with a young couple who had been at the opening party and decided to come back in that night. The space was chilly – being surrounded by nearly 400 year-old stone walls will do that – but with a full room, the temperature would surely be comfortable.
After a few moments, the lights dimmed and Mr. Razi screened a 17 minute (!) trailer reel for us highlighting clips from their debut film program.
The carefully curated program (created by Razi and Dostál), is “dedicated to a selection of the top 50 Czech and Czechoslovak films from the 1930s through to today.” Many of these titles have been completely restored by The Czech National Film Archive, and all of them feature English subtitles.
After the trailer presentation, Razi explained, “The goal of the program is to offer an opportunity to get to know more about Czechs, their history, and this city through cinema. It connects you to history here.” Art is often a reflection of its time, and few countries have seen as much change in a 70 year span as Czechoslovakia (the Czech and Slovak Republics, respectively). One can absolutely see those changes – both turbulent and positive – in the films of the period.
The young couple who watched the trailers with me were clearly impressed, as was I. The woman, who was Czech, remarked that she felt a twinge of shame. “I feel bad that I’m Czech and I don’t know all of those movies.”
Razi was quick to reply, “So now you have to come to the screenings,” and the couple assured him they would. “I can come here and learn more about my culture,” she said. The young man, for his part, said he was “super excited.”
The Screenshot film selection includes a fascinating (and insightful) mixture of art films together with popular genre films that are part of Czech cultural heritage.
Within the program you can check out literary adaptations of renowned Czech authors Karel Čapek, Jaroslav Hašek, and Vladislav Vančura, films by the “Czech New Wave” (which included directors like Miloš Forman and Jiří Menzel), as well as the innovative and imaginative works of great Czech filmmakers like Karel Zeman. You’ll be able to see Best Foreign Language Academy Award-winners as well as films released after the ’68 Soviet invasion (an event which drove a number of the above mentioned filmmakers to flee the country) and the unique ways in which those that those who stayed were able to disguise (some not so subtly) their displeasure in the occupation with comedy, sci-fi, and even a western or two. Selected films produced after ’89 reflect the wild and spontaneous period of the 1990s.
After the trailer, Mr. Razi showed me a sort of anteroom off of the theater which features another bar and an open space where he hopes to host art installations and other events in the near future. Then we headed upstairs to the bar where he ordered me a non-alcoholic mixed drink and we settled into a wide-ranging conversation.
Razi came to Prague 13 years ago to attend the film program at FAMU where the Iranian-American was on the Director track. Cinema was in his blood (his father was a cinematographer and his brother is a filmmaker as well). After school, he worked in film for a while including working on a number of U.S. productions in various roles (Assistant Director, Assistant Editor).
During that time he would make his own projects on the side – one of which went to Berlinale. He’s still actively pursuing projects, writing, and regularly shooting short films. He even presented one of his new projects at TIFF for buyers this year.
Razi had been working in radio as the Editor in Chief of Music for the Persian service of Radio Free Europe for 12 years when he decided to create a space for film lovers in Prague. He had little interest in creating another hipster bar. The bar was form following function. The idea was built around creating a space where artists and those who appreciate art could come together, watch films of all varieties, and then be able to stay and talk about film… all while enjoying professionally mixed drinks and a very comfortable atmosphere. “What we’ve been saying is: “Come for the movie, stay for the community,” said Razi.
For his part, Dostál was excited to come aboard as programmer. He and Razi met about two years ago through mutual friends who knew they’d get along well. Dostál had been thinking of a similar idea when Razi told him about his plan. A short time later, when he found the space, Razi called up Dostál and having appreciated his film knowledge over many a drink, offered him the position which he jumped at. He’s already programmed about five months!
“We want this to be a place for film geeks and movie lovers alike. We want to offer carefully selected films which we’ll combine into thematic blocks, but we’ll also screen standalone masterpieces, short film programs and the like. You can expect to see art films from all over the world – Slovak, Polish, Hungarian, Spanish, French… and some that are rarely screened,” Razi said.
In addition, the grand plan includes educational content. Lectures. Workshops. Materclasses. And even small festivals, student film screenings, and the possibility of renting the space for private events and parties (like team building events, anniversaries, or small premieres).
PRODUCTION – CZECH THROUGH THE LENS
While the bar is open six days-a-week, Screenshot currently runs their film program three nights a week (Wed.-Fri.) for now. Razi also hopes to bring in artists from the music world as well and, if they fuse music with film, all the better.
During their opening night party someone took over the piano downstairs and played for several hours. Razi told me, “I am eager to get experimental musicians to come here and, soon, we plan to have live cinematic poetry nights with music, a roving web-cam… and some other cool things. Eventually, when we have masterclasses, I’d like to live-stream them on the web.”
The venue will also host cast and crew events for both larger film companies and film students. In truth, Razi and Dostál hope the space will continue to reveal itself and evolve.
“The great part of running something small like this is that we are not under pressure to maintain a big venue… so we don’t need to screen every two hours all day and because of that, our goal is to offer these screenings, eventually, at no charge, and the idea that people can come here, have a few drinks, see the film… and then stay in the room and discuss cinema… that’s the goal.”
Their program “Czechs – Through The Lens” begins screening on October 2nd with a series of films by Director Pavel Juráček starting with his 1964 film Postava k podpíráni (A Character In Need of Support) which will be followed by a kickoff party. The program will build from there with each weeks’ screenings dedicated to a seminal Czech filmmaker.
CRAFT SERVICES – DRINKS AT SCREENSHOT
Screenshot’s bar features an extensive stock and some creative mixology. Many of the drinks are named after periods in cinema history or phases of filmmaking (like “Dogme 95,” made of Gin “with a Nordic roughness,” or “Rough Cut” which is Rye and Cognac). For non-drinkers they even have a special blend called the “Sober Screen,” a fruit blend that’s delicious and tart. And of course they also coffee, beer, and an assortment of house wines.
For small bites, they offer an assortment of cold snacks (tapas) and various toasts.
Screenshot is like a cinema-lover’s dream nestled into modern, inviting space. You can certainly go there just to have a coffee, wine, or cocktail… but if you’re someone who likes to watch films and then talk about them, this may quickly become your regular spot. During the interview for this article, Razi, Dostál and I couldn’t help ourselves and ended up talking for a good thirty minutes about the current state of Czech cinema and of cinema in general. It’s definitely a place I could see myself spending quite a bit of time in the city… and if you decide to stop by for a great drink, a classic film, or just to talk about cinema I think you’ll feel the same. No password required… but tell them CitySpy sent you.
WHERE: 1132/4 Petrská, Prague 1
CLOSEST TRAM STOP: Těšnov or Bílá Labut’
HOURS Tuesday thru Sunday 11-1am.