I miss thematic film festivals that used to be held in my home town. They were not often, once a year maybe, and they usually were a pretty small event, as not so many people are interested in foreign movies, but they were fun. As I moved away from home, I moved away from the festivals, too.
I remember a Japanese film a couple of my friends and I watched together. We didn’t know much about Japanese cinema or culture in general, and we chose a random movie that turned out to be about a ghost ship where all dead souls gathered after leaving this world. The movie was quite bizarre, left more questions than answers, but I remember an image of a young girl singing a sad song about her lost love. That was beautiful.
One of my friends hated this film as he was the guy who can’t deal with unanswered questions. Besides, he forgot his glasses and struggled the whole movie to read subtitles.
Next year we went to the Spanish Film Festival where, again, we were supposed to read a lot of subtitles and had no idea which movie to prefer. Somehow we chose Mar adentro, The Sea Inside. The best choice ever. For the first time I saw Javier Bardem who was just a Spanish actor then, not as famous as he is today. But you could see right away the depth and power of his talent. He played a man totally paralyzed, not being able to move even his head. And the striking contrast between the dead still body and the fire of live soul that shined through his eyes was irresistible. Even more irresistible was the wish of this man to die. We left the movie theater speechless.
Today you don’t actually need film festivals; you can buy and watch any movie in the world sitting on your own sofa. But the experience of going to the theater along with your friends where in the dark room you sit all together trying to grasp a clue of exotic reality and then, after the movie, you share ideas and theories and explanations… that is what I miss. That is what I left behind and it will never return.