There are tons of skate events going on all across the world every summer, most of which are blown out at this point. When it comes down to it, they are all pretty much the same. They end up being a gathering of a bunch of degenerates and tourists who come into town looking to cause a bit of chaos and watch some skating, but that’s not at all the case with Vladimir.
Arriving in Fazana, Croatia for the first time, we had no idea what to expect. The stories had guided our expectations to some degree, but they all sounded so mystical and seemed like such fantastical folklore. Usually, international film festivals are hosted in resource-heavy cities that offer many amenities to their guests. Fazana breaks the mold, hosting hundreds of skateboarders from all over Europe (and beyond) in a small fishing village for the Vladimir Film Festival just as the tourist season comes to a close. The term DIY gets thrown around a lot, but this event is truly a Do It Yourself affair. It encourages every guest to make friends, figure out where the next venue is going to be, and plan ahead for late-night beverages before all the stores close at 11:00 pm.
Aside from the many film premieres, there are other planned activities, like a zine-making workshop, skate trivia night (which got quite competitive), and even a boat ride to a nearby island once frequented by President Josep Tito. There was also always the option of doing your own thing, whether it be catching a bus to Pula to skate street spots, getting high and hanging out on the beach all day, or searching for hidden photo exhibitions throughout the village. Skaters of all skill levels and industry involvement were all in one place, having a great time and appreciating each others’ roles in this hodge-podge collective that is “skateboarding,” exploring and highlighting all of the coolest nooks and crannies of skating worldwide.
Before you go to Vladimir yourself (you must), pack your most fly rain jacket, a camper’s mindset, and a small notebook to document all the memories you might lose while partying at Kasarna. See you there in 2023.
The home of the festival, Fazana, is a small fishing village on the Istrian coast that usually hosts older German tourists looking to relax and soak in the sun. But for four days in mid-September, it becomes overrun by hundreds of skaters with skate film premiers across the city, art shows, workshops, and all-night parties.
Friday night’s film premier was in the decaying Fort Forno from World War I. Around the fort, you’re just free to roam. There were people climbing on the rock walls, like 50 feet up. It was like “enter at your own risk,” but it was totally controlled chaos. All these drunk people watching skate videos and on the sides of the buildings, with two-story drops, yet it all worked out.
Kasarna looked like a DIY bar to me. It was the after-party spot and people would skate the ramp and there would have dance parties. It looks like a clubhouse with a mini ramp in it. It’s in a cement shack in an empty field behind a big supermarket. It’s just there. You’d think it was abandoned.
One night we were skating the ramp pretty hard and we were all doing doubles. During one run, two guys did blunt kickflip fakie at the same time and everyone stormed the ramp. That was the ender.
At Kasarna they played typical Euro electro. Eastern Europe though, so you’d hear dance music from like the 2000s or ’90s and then a Rage Against the Machine song.
Rakija is their drink in Croatia. It’s like distilled brandy, this clear alcohol, and it’s super strong. It’s like fire water. Every place has its version of fire water and anyone who drinks it is just gonna cringe. There was definitely a lot of that going around while we were dancing.
We took the ferry over to Brujini Island. We didn’t go to it but someone said there’s a famous James Bond house. The island used to be a summer vacation spot for a former president of Yugoslavia, Josep Tito. He had all these exotic animals that were gifted to him from other world leaders that still live there.
The island has crystal-clear coves, Byzantine ruins, and a stable with an Indian elephant and a dozen zebras and llamas. Here’s one of those Zebras.
DIYs are always really intimidating. I’m really impressed that they exist and I think they’re rad and I’d be stoked if I was in a place that had one but if you just show up you have to get used to it. If you live there you know every nook and cranny, especially if you’re somebody that was involved in making it. It has extra meaning to you.
Usually, my whole experience as a skater is just being intimidated and embarrassed about completely sucking every time I ever try to skate a DIY [laughs].
The festival has similar vibes to the big European summer contests, but it’s not even close to a skate contest. You can skate the DIY, but it’s all about skate videos. You can get drunk and watch skate videos and the next day you don’t have to be like, “I’m too hungover to skate.”
Kirill Kobkov’s secret photo show is an annual event. You have to follow a scavenger hunt for clues throughout the town in order to locate it in some unexpected place. This was his show from 2019, still hanging in an abandoned electrical building by the beach that you had to enter by climbing through a window. It was also the site of the second clue for his current photo exhibition somewhere in Fazana.
While looking in another abandoned building behind the DIY for Kirill’s secret photo exhibition, we stumbled upon our own photo exhibition that accompanied our Saturday night film premiere for a Salad Days Pakistan trip, “First Push”. Photos by Holla Zack and myself.
I’ve known Patrik Wallner for a long time. He’s the mellowest person I’ve ever met, and he’s been in some of the craziest situations and places in the world. We’ve gone to Madagascar, Kazakhstan, everywhere… but on one of the trips I didn’t end up going to, they got invited to a warlord’s house in Afghanistan.
He’s kind of a nerd about geography and history. He’s not just going to these places to get wasted or do weird shit, he’s like genuinely interested in the place and the geopolitics of it all. He would invite people on the trip and be like, “It’s a dry country, if you wanna drink, you won’t be able to drink for two weeks, I hope that’s okay with you,” which is not for everybody. Everyone going on the trip assumes responsibility for themselves and their actions will affect the whole crew in a lot of these places.
At the film festival, he had a photo exhibit from his time in Hong Kong along with his “Paper Trails” origami. It was all on display at the bocce ball alley where he also premiered his new short doc on Cuban skateboarding, El Flujo.
My friend John Dahlquist is the Vice Principal of the Bryggeriet School in Malmo. The school is for skateboarding but also encourages filmmaking and all the other aspects of skateboarding. He brought the graduating class with him to the festival and was responsible for all of those 18 years olds [laughs]. One of the kids in that graduating class made a skate video called Graduation that showed all the skaters from that class. It was a real street video, like a local skate video from Malmo. It also had clips from alumni like Deedz Galasso, Ville Wester, and Oski.
The Vladimir Film Festival is very Euro-centric and it’s a very well-kept secret. I ran into some people I know, like Connor Kammerer, and they were like, “I came here five years ago and I’ve been coming every year since then!” Whoever I met had made a point to come back here.
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