I don’t know if I would ever have been to a summer film festival if it wasn’t for my friend – Magda. One day she just rang to say to pack my bags – backpack and a sleeping bag to be exact – and get on a train to Kazimierz Dolny, a picturesque town in the eastern part of Poland, now famous for its summer film festival. We were first year students craving art and adventure. As it was a spontaneous trip we have nothing prearranged and, in fairness, it did not bother us in the least. We got the train tickets at the station. We jumped off the train on this one of in-the-middle-of-nowhere stations and took the connecting bus. We got a map of the town at the tourist office and with backpacks on briskly walked to the adjacent camp site. It was full at this stage, as the festival started the day before, yet we still managed to pitch our tiny borrowed tent on a little slope just 2 meters from the Vistula river.
With all the basics sorted, we could just focus on the festival. Aw well, we still needed to get the tickets. And the key to the tickets was the queue. But for a few shows on pre-sale, most of the film tickets were on a first-come-first-serve basis. The sheer beauty of it was that we only needed to choose the show a few hours in advance and make sure to be on the queue for the right spot.
So each morning started in the same way … Get up and get out of the tent. Stretch your arms, breathe in the river breeze and feel the sun on your face. Get into the queue for the shower. Now, that took a while. An hour and a half to be exact. Still, you would not miss on your daily hygiene, even if you are a student on a summer festival. So we queued.
Then, one day we had a brightest and most brilliant idea and decided to outsmart everyone and beat the morning queues. We set the alarm clocks (and I do mean the real ticking clock) for 5am – just after the sun rise, half asleep crawled out of the tent and meandered through the camp site to the wooden cabin where the showers were. On the bright side the queue was reasonably smaller and with only three other sleepy heads in front of us we got into the showers in less than a quarter. On the not so bright side the water was freezing cold and it took a lot of mental strength to talk myself into washing my hair. No need to say how very quick this early morning shower was and how great it felt to snuggle up in the sleeping bag again.
And each morning continued in the same way. We went to the town centre, got some fresh artisan buns from the local and renowned bakery and sat down at the sun-splashed town square for a coffee and a daily read of the newspaper.
The cinematic experience was extraordinary. The evening shows in the open air, the close-up meetings with the directors, producers and actors and finally the unforgettable cinema itself – small yet grand, furnished in the old wooden and stone Jewish synagogue it was the place to be. It was a place to queue for.
The festival life experience was equally exceptional. Joining in the eloquent and critical conversations. Celebrity spotting. Interacting. Defining ourselves. Celebrating tasty food in tranquil surroundings. Living a week devoted to film watching. That was the Big Life as we knew it.
PS: The summer festival inspired theme will continue in the next post but for now a very happy Friday.