Film Curiosity writer, Samuel Johns, flew to participate in the first ever Station to Station International Film Event in Warsaw, Poland. Screening his own work, and taking in the creative atmosphere, he writes about his experience of the event.
It may have been the mass accumulation of short films, or Lukasz, the millionaire carpenter whose initials were scarred upon his face; but a part of me will forever remain lost in the city of Warsaw. It was here where directors, freaks and casuals flocked together; not for competition, but to gather, connect and understand.
Flight 4135 landed. Iga, a young native of Katowice showed me to my hostel, a place I would later come to spend little time in. She had invited me to attend Station to Station where I was fortunate enough to show a short film I had just completed.
The festival was a plexus of directors, producers, photographers, poets, musicians, all brought together from across Europe. A big feat for any event, especially one that is still in root form. On paper, it appeared to be an impractical undertaking. Fortunately, Iga does not partake in my pessimistic perspective and where many would fail, Iga succeeded with fueled madness and valid experience. Station to Station had arrived.
It is understood that cinema is an industry guarded by a mechanical goliath built on money and numbers: originality has given way to franchise. Whilst sitting in the sweltering heat of AMONDO Kino cinema however, accompanied by a horde of Polish, English, French, Greek and Bulgarian filmmakers, I knew the days to follow would be absolutely aberrant from the norm.
The films were by nature, individual. The criteria Station to Station had sought after was answered, exhibited by experimental obscurities with hints of narrative flourishings, giving way to a platitude of varying styles and cultures that took abnormal approaches to storytelling. Regularly, opening moments led to internal arguments where I found myself asking, “is this cinema?”
Not at all a negative reaction and one that motivates genuine thought still to this day. My problem of engagement was set aside when greeted with shorts such as NOIR. Vanya Seyed Chockrollahi swept me away with his intense focus of touch and tale of impossible love. Thematically and conceptually, it was a film that awakened a boredom I had toward cinema as of late. In simple terms, it made me feel.
Spanning across three days, with the final day consisting of a gentle play out of photography and last goodbyes, the second day was a mammoth schedule of film and music. It became apparent once in the cinema, that the films would run way into the late evening, with the closing slot finishing on a feature film for good measure. Personally, and by many around me, it felt too much for one day; problems any festival unfortunately experiences in its adolescent years. Refreshingly, a collective post-punk, buddhist, electric, spoken word group titled Second Hand Beatniks provided satirical and comical ease; most notably a sardonic lyrical track giving Thanks To America.
Despite scheduling issues, many of the films were of stellar quality. Jacob Bench’s film, Doorkeep, wrote towards the infinite, whilst setting its boundaries within the constraints of reality, until ultimately breaking conventions for speculation and mystery. Greek filmmaker, Giannis Andrias granted a personal insight of loss in the short, 33 The Dream of 0. A mastering of unsettling myth and legend whilst carrying a tactile and humanistic purity. Tyanita Skull explored the origins of Bulgarian folklore, directed and produced methodically to a degree of high-caliber filmmaking. Once more, I only hope that in festivals to come, the audience is granted more time to digest what they are viewing.
Formal discussion took place both in and after the screenings, to which I declined involvement for the most part; hastily closing a segment when explaining my own short film: explaining my actions not as rude, but instead a disconnect from justifying my creative decisions, which normally prevails from such talks. A hilarious contradiction from a film writer I know but that’s what three years of film school will do to you.
My conclusions lie heavily on my initial intention in attending Station to Station. It was to reinvigorate my attitude towards film by indulging in a unique crowd of creators. This was half true, but I would now put my discontempt not in the hands of cinema, but in the mundane experiences we grow accustomed to in our everyday lives. Due to the platform of film, and Iga’s perseverance in knowing the importance of community, I was able to abandon this state, even for a little while. A part of me will always be lost to Warsaw and for that, I’m thankful.