My friend Marina Jakulić told me about a small film festival in Fažana, Croatia that she works on every year and last September I got to go. These pictures are from that time.
The poster from the 2014 festival in my apartment the day before I left
It was hurricane season on the east coast of the US when I flew out and reporters were standing knee-deep in water all over Florida. Unfortunately in this case hurricane Maria did end up being catastrophic to Puerto Rico.
Waking up to a view of the alps
The bus from Venice, Italy to Pula, Croatia is about 5 hours and not having slept much on the plane I slipped in and out of consciousness with occasional views of the Italian, Slovenian and Croatian countryside.
Tibor was ready with the first of many repurposed plastic 2-liters filled with homemade rakija – a strong grape liquor like grappa.
By the time we made it to the “Black Lady,” which is a nickname for the local bar run by a nocturnal woman who dresses all in black, it was past midnight and things were getting delirious. The bar is adorned with maritime memorabilia and the Black Lady’s daughter’s paintings – tributes to horses and Axel Rose.
The Adriatic in Fažana is the kind of place so idyllic it must be hiding giant anemone and sea urchin patches just below the surface.
There they are.
The original odd couple: Zach Chamberlin and Richard Hart
Zach prolonging the day, if only slightly
Most nights would end up at a place called Kasarna. It was essentially a big shack in the woods between a supermarket parking lot and a soccer field. It lacked luxuries like running water, but was kept stocked with alcohol and more important things like a ping-pong table and a mini ramp. The clientele was a mix of visiting skateboarders and local regulars – some very friendly and welcoming, some brooding and reserved and some operating at such a level of drunk that they had been rendered incapable of human speech.
The winner of the 50-competitor-plus single elimination ping-pong tournament was Vujo – a local who falls into the brooding, reserved category. As you can see here (holding trophy), victory brought him no joy. He defeated Nich Kunz in the finals without even removing his fanny pack.
Hangovers were plentiful and extreme and the morning after the ping-pong tournament was particularly bad. I saw a mosquito trapped in the hardened sap of a tree and the phrase “Hold onto your butts” came to mind. Maybe in a few million years, long after humans are extinct Vujo will live again. Though I like to hope it was Zach who the mosquito bit last. He can apologize on behalf of humanity to the inheritors of the earth and explain how it all went wrong, and then he’ll smoke the future creatures out.
Akira and Zach basking in the sun in Pula
All the way from Costa Rica, Miguel Castro and Francisco Saco came to present Canasta. It was an amazing labor of love for Francisco and perfectly illustrated one of the greatest things about Vladimir, which is seeing how skateboarders and filmmakers interact with their own environments across the world. A few of the videos presented this year were about traveling to new or foreign places to skate, but the connection between a place and the video work was particularly powerful when the environment is local to the filmmaker, as with Francisco in Canasta and festival organizer Nikola Racan in his video Solsticij.
From Budapest: Zsombor, Dia and Akira
Nikola’s patio overlooking the Adriatic on the night of a thunderstorm. I hung my clothes here at the beginning of the festival and by the end they were saturated with the sea breeze.
The final day’s videos were projected on Brijuni island, which is a national park and the former summer home of Yugoslavian president Josip Tito. Nikola and the other festival organizers’ connections from having grown up in Fažana allowed us to get over there for a fraction of the normal price and we had some time to wander around and get lost in the forest among the axis deer and peafowl before the screening. You can stumble into all kinds of time periods walking through the island, where millenia-old Roman ruins aren’t far from a lavish Overlook-style hotel frozen in the 1960s, and where animals have been brought in from all over the world to roam free.
Zsombor and Ricsi from Hungary on the terrace of the Hotel Neptun. Zsombor’s likeness to Jack Nicholson added to the Shining vibe that the hotel gave off, but Ricsi’s “S Horty S” hoodie harkened back to a different time.
Brijuni is also home to Istria’s oldest living olive tree, which dates back to the 4th century. It still produces olives.
The final screening was on President Tito’s personal outdoor theater – an unbelievable venue for a video premiere. Nikola told me that for the screening of Colin Read’s Spirit Quest last year the sky was completely free of clouds and the video was accompanied by a stunning view of the stars. This year the giant outdoor screen was instead framed with a lightning storm. Nikola and the other festival organizers had been worried all day that it would be rained out, but the rain held and the looming thunderstorm visuals fit the videos perfectly. Vantte Lindevall from Finland showed his documentary Abkhazia, which follows a group of “get clips”-oriented skaters as they grind on monuments and accidentally maim children in the eponymous never-before-skated Russia/Georgia border land. The documentary shows the pitfalls of the human ego when traveling and trying to be productive. It felt like a behind-the-scenes view of videos in the vein of Away Days, where skaters travel extensively, stack clips above all else, and put together a project with no connection to the local communities in the places they’ve visited. In my travels I’ve done countless regrettable things for the sake of my ego and skewed priorities, so I felt that Vantte’s documentary was above all else interesting for its relatability for any skateboarder who likes to travel.
The other video on Brijuni was Jim Craven’s Island, which was a travel documentary of an entirely different sort. It’s also about going to never-before-skated places, but in this case all of the “spots” are completely removed from civilization. Jim and his friends traveled all over Britain to find ditches and aqueducts in the wilderness and repurpose them as places for skateboarding. The resulting combination of perfect desolate silence and booming, percussive skateboard sounds is stunning. The acoustics at the venue were particularly good, and did justice to a soundtrack comprised mainly of the sounds of skateboarding over concrete and through water and dirt. The video presented a very complicated man vs. nature relationship, where skateboarders go into the forest and fight against the natural elements that have encroached on manmade structures. But their use for the structures has nothing to do with humans’ original intent, and ultimately the very thing that makes the video exceptional is its connection to the elements.
During the screening Ricsi was sitting next to me, but at some point I noticed he had disappeared. After 15 minutes or so he returned, out of breath, to say, “Oh sorry, I was puking. But it was really nice to listen to the sounds of skateboarding while I puked.”
Back to Fažana
Back to reality
Hoping things don’t change too much here
Over the Alps
Back to New York