Vladimir Film Festival

Waltz­ing in Croatia

26 / 10 / 2018 / Story


A big thanks goes to Spen­cer Lege­bokoff for writ­ing this art­icle about Vladi­mir 2019 that was pub­lished at the King skate­board magazine

The nor­mally cul­tur­ally homo­gen­ous town was quickly taken over by the sounds of powers­lides and Ollies, and I quickly real­ized why Fažana was the per­fect place for skaters to gath­er: the sea was warm, cof­fee breaks were long, and nobody ever felt the need to lock their doors.



In Septem­ber of 2017, I released a full-length skate film, Stigma, in the small town of Nel­son, BC. Shortly after, I heard about the Vladi­mir Film Fest­iv­al, an annu­al event going on its sev­enth year that takes place in Croa­tia. I emailed a fest­iv­al organ­izer with a link to Stigma to inquire about par­ti­cip­a­tion. Time passed and I even­tu­ally for­got I had sent the email. One morn­ing I awoke to a mes­sage in my inbox from Nikola Racan, a head organ­izer of Vladi­mir. He was stoked on my film and said that if I made any­thing new over the sum­mer, I had an offi­cial invite to premi­er it at Vladi­mir. With a knee sur­gery on the mend, I was motiv­ated to film a new pro­ject over the sum­mer spe­cific­ally for the fest­iv­al. My film, Waltz, was ded­ic­ated to the beauty and eleg­ance of skat­ing, using a soundtrack entirely com­posed of jazz and fusion music.

Nikola men­tioned I could bring a homie with me. My friend Luke Hayes, who has clips in the video, was down to join me. We booked tick­ets and even­tu­ally set off for the small Croa­tian fish­ing town of Fažana, which is home to a pop­u­la­tion of only a couple thou­sand. The town, loc­ated in the Croa­tian region of Istria, was as far away from the blown-out tour­ist-trap cit­ies as could be. We flew into Venice, Italy and a fest­iv­al-arranged shuttle drove us over three hours the rest of the way. Even­tu­ally we turned off the six-lane high­way to a two-lane lead­ing to Fažana. Upon arrival, we were greeted by Mar­ina Jak­ulić, a fest­iv­al organ­izer in charge of trans­port­a­tion and accom­mo­da­tions. We were shown to our shared apart­ment after meet­ing fest­iv­al MC and organ­izer Nikola Racan himself.

Fažana was very quiet when we arrived, as we had come a couple of days earli­er than the rest of the fest­iv­al-goers. The town was quaint, humble, and as col­our­ful as I had expec­ted a small Adri­at­ic set­tle­ment to be. As the fest­iv­al approached, we star­ted to meet crew after crew of skaters who had come from all over the world to show their work through photo exhib­i­tions, doc­u­ment­ar­ies, and tra­di­tion­al skate films. The nor­mally cul­tur­ally homo­gen­ous town was quickly taken over by the sounds of powers­lides and Ollies, and I quickly real­ized why Fažana was the per­fect place for skaters to gath­er: the sea was warm, cof­fee breaks were long, and nobody ever felt the need to lock their doors. The loc­als accep­ted the influx of busi­ness gra­ciously and were almost always patient as we tried to fig­ure out the currency.

Thursday, Septem­ber 27th, was the first night of the fest­iv­al and took place in the 1970’s Yugoslavi­an Bri­oni Hotel, with its ori­gin­al interi­or intact. There was a skate mar­ket out­side fea­tur­ing inde­pend­ent European brands. Snacks and wine were served as every­one enjoyed a mul­ti­me­dia exhib­i­tion to start the night. A mul­ti­tude of diverse films played before mine on the open­ing night, most not­ably a video called Auto­bahn 58from Ant­on Beli­aev. My film screened mid-way through the night and every­one was stoked on it — many people men­tioned they hadn’t had much expos­ure to Cana­dian skate­board­ing at the grass­roots level. The night didn’t go without a couple tech­nic­al dif­fi­culties, but they were shrugged off and the open­ing night was con­sidered a success.


I real­ized mid-way through the night that there was no pre­ten­tious­ness at this fest­iv­al, and view­ers were just as stoked on homie videos as they were pro­fes­sion­al edits. Every­one had left whatever little egos they had at home. I instantly star­ted to get a fam­ily-like vibe from all in attend­ance. After the screen­ings and exhib­i­tions, every­one headed to Kas­arna, the loc­al club­house. Kas­arna fea­tured a steep yet sol­id mini-ramp, a full-sized ping-pong table and a bar. Here we were quickly intro­duced to shots of the loc­al drink called Rakija from fest­iv­al organ­izer and bar­tender Tebor Rep. Many people already knew who I was due to present­ing my film earli­er on, which made intro­duc­tions easy. Every­one here wanted to be here— Fažana wasn’t a place one just stumbles across. The envir­on­ment was accept­ing and fun, and social­iz­ing went without any judge­ment des­pite being in a room full of inter­na­tion­al strangers.

The rest of the week­end fea­tured ven­ues in a mod­ern theatre, cobble­stone squares, and a his­tor­ic private out­door theatre on the island of Brijuni. Around 200 people gathered for each night. Not­able pro­jects included Kuba Kaczmarczyk’s Nev­er­where, a Pho­to­syn­thes­is anim­a­tion by Mar­cus Craven and Absurd at the Azov Sea by Absurd Skate­boards. A high­light of the fest­iv­al for me took place on Sat­urday night, in the court­yard of the mid 17th-cen­tury Vene­tian fort­ress of Kaštel, Pula. Rick Charnoski and Coan “Buddy” Nich­ols of Six-Stair, the pro­du­cers of Jeff Grosso’s Love­let­ters and vari­ous Anti­hero films, had brought some­thing spe­cial from LA: an install­a­tion entitled Behind the Fence.


Before us stood four giant pro­ject­or screens which made up a cube which people could walk into. Four Red cam­er­as had shot a back­yard pool ses­sion from the bot­tom of the bowl look­ing up, so that when the foot­age was mirrored and pro­jec­ted on the exter­i­or of each screen, it would appear as if you’re stand­ing in the bot­tom of the pool watch­ing the ses­sion go on around you once you walk inside.


“The ses­sion took place at the Hol­ly­wood Pool,” said Buddy, “and fea­tured Rob­bie Russo, Ron­nie San­dov­al, Raney Beres, Peter Hewitt, Al Partan­en, Tom Remil­lard, Chris Cope, Cedric Pavich and a hand­ful of oth­ers, along with Jeff Grosso and Steve Olson hanging out as well. We had guys from dif­fer­ent gen­er­a­tions: 20 years old to like 50 years old. The idea came about nearly 15 years ago, but about eight months ago an invite to Vladi­mir made us make it hap­pen. Skate­board­ing is real; it’s some­thing that nobody else can tell you how to do and it’s up to you for what you want it to be. These guys from Vladi­mir do the fest­iv­al for that same reas­on. Its authentic.”

When I went inside to exper­i­ence it for myself, I was blown away, feel­ing as if I was going to get hit by a run­away board at any moment. The ses­sion was uncut which increased the con­tinu­ity and sim­u­la­tion of actu­ally being with­in the sunny LA back­yard pool. The install­a­tion screens were over­taken by wind just as the crew was bus­ted by the police in the video, which cre­ated an eer­ily beau­ti­ful con­clu­sion to the one-hour experience.


By the week after, every­one had left town besides us, and we spent a couple days in the big­ger cit­ies of Rijeka and Zagreb. Once we got back to Fažana, before catch­ing our trans­fer to fly back out of Venice, I was able to sit down with the exhausted Nikola to look back on the fest­iv­al, now a week behind us, and to ask why he believes the fest­iv­al is still genu­ine, even after almost a decade.

“I think every­one this year took some­thing home with them, even if it was just a con­nec­tion. The fest­iv­al is still inde­pend­ent, it’s pure, and it’s still inno­cent. Not hav­ing much infra­struc­ture gave us the advant­age — it’s not like big­ger cit­ies which are more blown-out,” says Nikola. “Most of the accom­mo­da­tions are paid for through the food and drinks we sell at Kas­arna. We aren’t try­ing to make money off of any­one. We are always try­ing to do some­thing new — it’s still a small event, but we want to keep it that way. “


With those final words, Nikola sum­mar­ized the event per­fectly. As we traveled home I reflec­ted on what Vladi­mir had giv­en me: hope that truly core skate­board­ing could exist and that skate­board­ing is the ulti­mate uni­ver­sal medi­um to con­nect with oth­ers. I left with friends and con­nec­tions from all over the globe, new ideas for pro­jects and the appre­ci­ation that I was blessed with an oppor­tun­ity to be a part of the big­ger pic­ture of skateboarding.

Story and pho­tos by Spen­cer Legebokoff