Vladimir Film Festival

Nikola Racan inter­view for Grey (part 1)

11 / 10 / 2016 / Interview

Nikola Racan / Photo Henry Kingsford

The ori­gin­al inter­view taken from Grey skate magazine: Nikola Racan inter­view part 1.

Late last month we spent a week in Croa­tia for the sixth annu­al Vladi­mir Film Fest­iv­al, a small inde­pend­ent skate­board film and pho­to­graphy fest­iv­al staged between Fažana and Pula in the Croa­tian region of Istria. High­lights of this year’s four-day pro­gramme included: an emo­tion­al world premiere of Nikola Racan’s video Sol­sti­cij, a photo show fea­tur­ing work by Kuba Bączkowski, Alexey Lap­in, Joel Peck and Richard West, a live per­form­ance by Sergej Vutuc and the Croa­tian premiere of Colin Read’s new video, Spir­it Quest, which was held in the magic­al set­ting of Veliki Brijun Island. We caught up with fest­iv­al organ­iser Nikola Racan to find out what makes this fast-grow­ing, grass­roots fest­iv­al so spe­cial, and why people travel from all over the world to a small fish­ing vil­lage in Croa­tia be a part of it.

Inter­view by Henry Kings­ford for Grey skate mag.

Q: How did the fest­iv­al start, back in 2011?

A: The fest­iv­al star­ted spon­tan­eously. Every year in Croa­tia there are a bunch of fest­ivals and we were tired of work­ing (for those fest­ivals) and wanted to make one for ourselves. We didn’t even think about the word ‘fest­iv­al’, we just talked about bring­ing a pro­ject­or to a bar and screen­ing a few films that we were going to down­load from the inter­net. That was basic­ally it – that was how the idea star­ted. When we star­ted the fest­iv­al, our event in May – which is a typ­ic­al skate con­test – was pretty pop­u­lar in Croa­tia and across the region. Each May we had a bunch of skaters com­ing here – we still do – but we wanted to have a private event, a small one. So the first fest­iv­al was held in the skate­park (in Fažana). I think Marko (Zubak) hooked us up with Phil Evans and he sent us Format Per­spect­ive. Then the guys from Ant­iz jumped in, and a couple of guys from the US… It was a just a small, one-day fest­iv­al. We skated the skate­park all day then screened three films and when we put on the pro­ject­or, I felt like it was a dif­fer­ent thing. This was the first time I saw skate videos on a big screen in my homet­own, so there was a huge impact.

Q: Tell us about Fažana.

A: Fažana is my life, basic­ally. It has been since I first opened my eyes. Fažana is the only thing that mat­ters to me, it’s as simple as that. I just love the place where I live and that is the reas­on why I do the fest­iv­al here. I’ve been doing stuff with skate­board­ing in Fažana my whole life. I’m in love with this town. It’s not always good, some­times it’s bad, but it’s where I’m from, it’s what I have to work with.

Q: Can you describe the place?

A: Fažana is a small muni­cip­al­ity. That’s a rel­at­ively new thing – 10 years ago Fažana was still under a nearby city, Vod­njan. Dur­ing all the Yugoslavia stuff, Fažana was a grey zone because it was a port for the Brijuni Islands – it still is today – and the Islands were Tito’s (Josep Broz Tito, Pres­id­ent of the Social­ist Fed­er­al Repub­lic of Yugoslavia, 1953 – 80) res­id­ence dur­ing WW2 and dur­ing the ’70s, so it was basic­ally a mil­it­ary zone, a port to go to the islands. Oth­er than that, it was a fisherman’s vil­lage. That was it, there was noth­ing. People either worked on the island or worked as a fisherman.

Q: Now tour­ism is big here.

A: Now it has become a tour­ist spot because when Fažana did get divided from the city, things star­ted to look a little bit more nor­mal. We got street lights. Land was sold off to for­eign investors, who developed with tour­ism in mind. When we were kids we didn’t have any­thing here. We didn’t have a skate­park – I mean we still don’t have a prop­er skate­park – we didn’t have places to play foot­ball, or lit streets, so we were basic­ally forced to make some­thing out of noth­ing. Oth­er than fish­ing and the Islands, Fažana had two indus­tries: the glass fact­ory and liquor fact­ory that later became our DIY spots. Those factor­ies were my back­yard as a kid. It was so inter­est­ing to go around them, even before I skated.

Q: Tell us about the skate scene in Fažana and Pula.

A: Pula has a new skate­park now. That’s good, but it’s not the way we want to work in Fažana. We are one crew, Fažana and Pula, but there are always dif­fer­ences in the way people think in skate­board­ing. The skate scene is pretty small, there aren’t a lot of people who skate here. That’s actu­ally what attrac­ted me to doing stuff in Fažana. It was strange to make a plat­form here because there are no skate spots (Pula has nice skate spots) and there have always been under 20 people who act­ively skate in the area. Maybe if the scene was big­ger, none of this stuff (Vladi­mir, the fact­ory DIY spots) would have happened, because some­body else would have set the agenda. Fažana was pretty stingy back in the day. It didn’t give us much, so we had to plant our own seed.

People star­ted skat­ing in Pula around the early ’90s or late ’80s. In the ’90s it was a dif­fer­ent type of skat­ing than today – they mainly skated just a few spots. We are the first gen­er­a­tion who went a bit fur­ther. We saw that guys from France and from the States skated a dif­fer­ent way and we applied that to our scene here. But the scene is pretty small, we don’t have a skate shop. The skate­park in Pula means a lot for the new gen­er­a­tion, so that’s nice. It’s the first skate­park in the city.

Q: Tell us about the link with your crew and Magenta.

A: Yoan (Tail­lan­d­i­er, Bor­deaux-based filmer) is one of the most influ­en­tial filmers from the last dec­ade. Those guys are my good friends now. I’ve been to France a couple of times, they’ve been here a couple of times. They went to Japan first and saw what those guys were doing and then we saw what they were doing. I think gen­er­ally, six or sev­en years ago, this new trend star­ted to emerge that Yoan put on the map, even before Magenta. We didn’t know any­thing about Magenta, we just wanted to go and meet Yoan and maybe Leo (Valls), so we went to Bor­deaux. Eight of us couch surfed there. We didn’t know any­one, just one kid from Face­book (that was a really strange story and it would be too long to tell it now), we just arrived there and met Aymer­ic (Nocus) and Leo in front of Riot skate shop. We didn’t know Vivi­en (Feil, Magenta co-founder) was liv­ing there, we just wanted to see the city, the streets. It was our first trip. Me and my crew were pretty influ­enced by all the stuff around Minu­it (Yoan Taillandier’s 2011 video) that was going on.

Q: Back to Vladi­mir, who else is involved in organ­ising the festival?

A: Oth­er than myself, Oleg (Morović) does all the print­ing and he sets up the exhib­i­tions. His fath­er was one of the first suc­cess­ful graph­ic design­ers in this region, so when we were kids play­ing foot­ball, Oleg had to go and study CorelDraw or InDes­ign, whatever pro­gram it was. Without him, all this stuff would not look at good at is does. One of main ideas behind our skate­board club that organ­ises the fest­iv­al (Skate­board Klub August Šenoa) was to involve a lot of people in Vladi­mir who are not skaters, people from Fažana who just want to help out. Mar­ina (Jak­ulić) is queen of the inter­net, she’s crazy. I’m not a big fan of the inter­net. Some­times people get con­fused and think that I post shit on the inter­net. I don’t do stuff like all the PR work on Face­book. Iris (Mošnja) helps out a lot with the tenders and stuff, she’s pretty exper­i­enced. Marta (Barad­ic) also, she’s from Fažana, she helps out as much as she can and also writes art­icles for the press. Elvis (Butković) is the main tech­ni­cian guy who works on all the stuff like light­ing. Tibor (-Marko Jak­ulić) is also here help­ing out. And myself, I don’t want to be selfish, but I’m in touch with everything. It’s a really tiny organ­iz­a­tion based on friend­ship. There are a lot of guys who help out, but maybe two or three people are work­ing on it all year.

Q: Where did the name ‘Vladi­mir’ come from?

A: The first year, we didn’t care. I didn’t think that I’d be talk­ing to you right now, doing an inter­view for Grey and hav­ing guys from all around the world – not just Europe – com­ing to Fažana. It was my dream for sure, but with ‘Vladi­mir’ we didn’t think, it was just a funny name we chose. The second year, when I star­ted to write emails to people request­ing films, I didn’t feel very con­fid­ent speak­ing about Vladi­mir Film Fest­iv­al, but after the second or third fest­iv­al, we knew that our name was becom­ing… it’s stable now.

Nikola Racan / Photo Henry Kingsford

Q: How do you cur­ate the fest­iv­al? Are there spe­cif­ic cri­ter­ia for films you show?

The type of skate­board­ing that interests me most is inde­pend­ent skating.

It is still an inde­pend­ent, under­ground fest­iv­al, whatever that word under­ground means. Basic­ally it was always myself or Marko send­ing emails to people, then we got the films and we’d screen them. There was no pub­lic applic­a­tion. We don’t have awards. It’s a private thing, not an open fest­iv­al. But this year a bunch of guys sent me emails and each time I said yes. I am say­ing to you right now: next year guys, this will be impossible because there would be too many films. We don’t want to look sharp and strict and so ser­i­ous, but you must have selec­tion, for sure. The primary selec­tion of the fest­iv­al is inde­pend­ent films, you know what I mean…

Q: So more scene videos vs. big­ger budget com­pany videos?

A: Yes. This year we wanted to bring new guys. Marko spe­cific­ally said to me: “We should invite Rus­si­ans, Span­ish people, expand…” The first few years we didn’t even care what the pro­gramme was. It was like: “Now we’re gonna get this film, nice”. We were stoked on small inde­pend­ent brands like Polar, Magenta, all those guys. If they did a film, we wanted to screen it. I saw the guys from Poland made Grey Area, there was Elev­enth Hour… We fol­low the brands and things like us, people who think as skaters, inde­pend­ently. We are not doing the fest­iv­al for mar­ket­ing, for busi­ness. We don’t even both­er that much about the pro­gramme, because it comes naturally…

Q: You had a lot of last-minute sub­mis­sions this year, right?

A: Yes we did. We didn’t even have time to announce Jim’s (Craven) film and Nicaragua also came almost last minute. We had to extend the fest­iv­al to Day Zero. We even thought about mak­ing a Zero Week and begin­ning a few days earli­er, because it’s hard to watch three our four skate videos in a row. People lose con­cen­tra­tion, it’s not nat­ur­al. Basic­ally, if you watch a skate video, then you want to go skate. That’s the ulti­mate mes­sage. That is how it’s sup­posed to be. But we still have a few doc­u­ment­ar­ies that will not hype you up that much to go skate, but to think maybe. We have at least one doc­u­ment­ary each year, a full-length doc­u­ment­ary that was released that year or the year before. It’s a good way to bring a dif­fer­ent audi­ence, not just hav­ing skaters watch­ing skate videos, act­ing crazy and stuff.

Q: They are more inter­est­ing to non-skaters in the city (Pula).

A: Yes, of course, par­tic­u­larly in that cinema (Kino Valli in Pula, where the doc­u­ment­ar­ies are screened). It’s a fancy cinema where you can go and watch a film – you don’t have to be a skater… It would be hard for someone who didn’t skate who came to the fest­iv­al and watched Vase or Elev­enth Hour or some­thing like that. They will see that it’s a nice film, it has nice trans­itions, nice skat­ing, but they won’t under­stand like we do. So it’s good that there are film­makers out there doing doc­u­ment­ar­ies about skate­board­ing. That’s really nice.

Q: When did pho­to­graphy become part of the festival?

A: We had a tiny exhib­i­tion at the second film fest­iv­al, but the first real exhib­i­tion came in 2013. The idea came nat­ur­ally, because the skate cine­ma­to­graphy world is really in con­tact with pho­to­graphy also. When we fin­ish one fest­iv­al, we think about what we don’t have that we could include the fol­low­ing year. That is why we put pho­to­graphy in.

Q: Tell us more about the DIY spots in the old factor­ies in Fažana.

A: We had two DIY spots, one in the liquor fact­ory and one in the glass fact­ory. In 2012 and 2013 we had parts of the fest­iv­al in the old liquor fact­ory. 2013 was the key year because we star­ted to get expos­ure. Then the DIY got shut down. It got torn down and we had some dif­fi­culties with each oth­er as a crew.

The place was gone. We were like: “What the fuck now? The fest­iv­al will die. There’s no point, we don’t have a place”. We were all depressed.

That was the reas­on we star­ted to think dif­fer­ently. We kept the two-day pro­gram, but the first day was in Fažana and the second in Pula. That year I was work­ing as a driver for the big film fest­iv­al in Pula and I got to know some of the guys who worked there. They hooked me up with the man­agers and dir­ect­ors and we man­aged to get the movie cinema and the gal­lery (Cva­jn­er Gal­lery in Pula). That year we made a poster on one of the walls of the old liquor fact­ory, which you can still see (see photo above). It’s like a monu­ment to the place.

Q: What happened to the DIY spots?

A: We were build­ing there for maybe ten years, then it was torn down because the land was being sold. Basic­ally as the fest­iv­al was grow­ing, Fažana was grow­ing too. More and more tour­ists came and from the out­side, they saw the DIY spots as ugly places. They sold out the loc­a­tion, that is true, but they did not tear down the place because of the investors, they tore it down for this tour­ism bullshit.

Q: The spaces haven’t been developed since the spots were taken down.

A: The place will be empty, maybe forever. Who knows? It just looks ugly now. I knew that we were really on thin ice – that it would be gone – since I star­ted build­ing there, but it was a mes­sage to show people that we cre­ated some­thing from noth­ing, that they should give us a chance to work on some­thing that is legit you know, legal.

Q: Back to this year’s fest­iv­al. The Spir­it Quest premiere on Veliki Brijun Island was a magic­al exper­i­ence. Tell us a little about the island and the cinema.

A: We knew that a lot of people would come this year and I’ve been in con­tact with Colin (Read) since we had the Ten­gu premiere in the old liquor fact­ory in 2013. He already knew about the fest­iv­al and when I saw the trail­er, I imme­di­ately sent him the link for Brijuni. There was noth­ing in the mail, just a link: “Man, check this. We should have a premiere”. The nation­al park is def­in­itely the biggest step that we took this year. Brijuni Islands are 14 vir­gin islands loc­ated 3.5km from Fažana. It was, well it still is the sum­mer res­id­ence of the pres­id­ent the coun­try. It’s a really beau­ti­ful, pre­served place with anim­als and it def­in­itely did suit the Spir­it Quest video. Last year I really wanted to screen Vase there, but it wasn’t done yet. The Spir­it Quest premiere on the island was really magic­al, as you said. The place is pretty unique. It’s an old cinema from Yugoslavia.

Q: Some of the anim­als in the safari park are in the video too, so that was a really spe­cial link.

A: Dur­ing WW2 and after, when Tito was there, there was a museum of taxi­dermy on the island with anim­als from all around the world – they had everything – and Spir­it Quest also has almost everything. It was a struggle to get per­mis­sion for the premiere because we needed to open the eyes of the guys who work there – they don’t know what skate­board­ing really is. I don’t know if any­body has screened a skate video in a nation­al park and on an island else­where, I’m not sure…

Q: I don’t think so.

A: We had 120 people at the premiere, which was crazy. We had to arrange a big boat to bring us back.

Q: How do you see the fest­iv­al grow­ing and devel­op­ing in future years?

A: It will def­in­itely be a chal­lenge, because after this year more people will come here. I’m psyched about that, but the organ­isa­tion will prob­ably change. There will be a lot more people involved in the fest­iv­al. The fest­iv­al is what keeps me going here. We put so much effort in and now that effort is com­ing back, not fin­an­cially, but on oth­er levels. Fažana is still a good place to live because I can plan the fest­iv­al all year.

Q: How do you fund the festival?

A: That’s the magic ques­tion. If I told you in num­bers how much money we get from the city, it would be so funny. We fund 50 per­cent of the fest­iv­al ourselves and 50 per­cent is money we get from oth­er insti­tu­tions. The budget is really small. We are lucky that myself and a few oth­er guys know some people here who helped out, out of good will.

Q: So you’ve worked for Pula Film Fest­iv­al and also on Brijuni Islands.

A: Yes. I worked for Brijuni Islands for three years and I worked for a few years at the film fest­iv­al. I worked in a theatre for almost five years too. So I know the cul­tur­al scene and they can see that we are just becom­ing some­thing, that we are some­thing small, but those guys were also small once, so they help us out.

Q: What do the people of Fažana think about the annu­al influx of skateboarders?

A: The first few years, even last year, it was alright, but this year we booked a few apart­ments, so people earned some money there, the guys ate at that res­taur­ant, we used that guy’s shop (for beer and cigar­ettes), so it’s becom­ing a post-tour­ism event.

Q: At the end of the season?

A: Yes, because it’s the first day of autumn and you have 100, maybe 200 people arriv­ing in Fažana. That’s a lot for this small place. So I think people should real­ise this is import­ant for the town, for the community.

Q: What were some of your favour­ite moments from this year’s festival?

A: I fin­ished one job straight into anoth­er job and then this fest­iv­al was just non-stop. I still need some time to get this…

Q: Dis­tance?

A: Yes. But I mostly remem­ber this tech­nic­al stuff that wasn’t 100 per cent right. That bugs me a little bit. But it’s really hard to say what the high­light was. Man, last year I picked you and Will (Har­mon, edit­or of Free) up from the air­port and this year we picked up like 15 people from the UK. That says a lot. Then next day ten Rus­si­ans arrived, after­wards a few guys from the States landed, Photo Jesus (James Ahern) came out (from Aus­tralia). It’s crazy. People even planned their hol­i­days to come here.

Con­tin­ue read­ing on part 2.