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Donostia Book Club

My name is Slawka Grabowska. I organize Donostia Book Club. We meet every month to discuss previously chosen books or short stories. Check out our FB page! https://www.facebook.com/pages/Donostia-Book-Club/105225566276875?ref=hl

How to Survive a Film Festival and Truly Enjoy It

I live in a city of FILM FESTIVAL.

The end of summer is marked by the Film Festival and only when it ends the regular academic year starts. Or so it feels to me. I always treat September as a transition month, time to get used to early waking up and rushing around all day long. And it is a hard transition, made even more difficult by trying to fit into my new work schedule as many festival screenings as possible.


Yesterday was the last day of this year´s festival and it makes me nostalgic. I look back not only at the last week and all the wonderful films, but also at previous year’ films.

It always starts with juggling schedules. I sit with my timetable and with festival screenings’ timetable (released only one day before the tickets go for sale) and first mark all the films, all the hours that I could fit in with my work. Don’t get me wrong: not all of these films I want to see, but it’s better to eliminate the films that I have no way of seeing before reading any synopsis that could potentially break my heart or make me drop my job.


Once I figure that out, I make a list of the titles that I could potentially see and I start reading all the synopsis. If I have doubts, I look for trailers. The frustrating part is, not all the trailers are available: some of the films have their international premiers and don’t have all the promotional materials out yet. After about two or three hours, I have all the titles I really want and can see.


Unfortunately that´s not a happy end to making difficult choices: many of the screenings are at the same time. Last year I managed to see 17 films, this year only 14. The good news is, with time you get better at selecting what is worth seeing. I was wrong only about one film this year, while last September I made at least 4 doubtful choices.



So, the choice is made. You have your films carefully selected. You think you can relax and sleep well? Wrong! The very next morning the sale starts at 9 in the morning. And again you are faced with a choice: spend half night in a line and tremble that all the people that are in front of you are trying to buy tickets to YOUR screenings or you can sit in front of your computer and fight with the overloaded online sales system that constantly faces you with new bugs and challenges. I prefer my computer. If I am lucky (I was this year!) I start at 9.00 and at 9.15 I´m done. If I am not lucky (last year) I start at 9.00 and at 10.30 I still don´t have tickets. And the Sunday is done. You finally have the tickets, not always all you wanted, but at least the hunt is done. Exhausted you decide to sleep and forget about all that. You have 6 days till Friday: the first day of festival.


You see 3–4 films per day. Wake up at 5:30 and go to sleep at 2:00. Your coworkers worry if you might be sick. You are too tired to calm them down. All you can think about is the film you just have seen/will see. And your favorite author is coming the very next day.



But when he arrives you are at work. And you’ve already missed to many hours. Then at night your friend calls you and tells you in 5 minutes he will be out of the restaurant at the other side of the city. How the hell could you possibly get there in 5 minutes?? You couldn’t. At least you bought the ticket for the screening with presentation, so you can see him tomorrow. And so on… The week flies by and you are happy when it’s over. You promise yourself that the next year or you will take a week of at work, or you will just go to see 2–3 films. But 365 days later you don´t remember anymore all the weariness. So you spend 2–3 hours to set the timetables right, wake up at 8:30 on Sunday before the festival, fight with the computer sales system….



It´s still worth it. I promise!


All the pictures are done by me at the San Sebastian Film Festival.