This year marks the 12th annual Camerimage International Festival of the Art of Cinematography, which includes competitive and non-competitive screenings, student films, seminars, and an awards gala where an international jury selects the most artful cinematography of the year.
Reporting from Poland is David Heuring. Heuring served as editor of American Cinematographer Magazine from 1990-1995, and has been writing about cinematography, filmmaking and postproduction ever since.
Friday, December 3:
Friday also saw part two of the Christopher Doyle seminar. Doyle broke the ice by remarking, “I always had the dream of being the Mick Jagger of cinematography. But now many people tell me I am the Keith Richards.”
He continued in a humorous vein but was serious about his point. “I think that music is a form that cinematography should aspire to,” he said. “When you hear music you sense the integrity, intent, energy and spirit of the voice. Most people seem stuck in or tied to the word, or the script. I think our job is to celebrate the possibility and the poetry of the image. So how do you that? It’s difficult because so many people, especially in the west, are based in the text. I am asked this question every day. Do you really think the image is more important? Yes, I do. I feel the reality of the film is contained in the images. I hear so many cinematographers saying that the job is to translate the words into images. But images are also ideas.
“The great pleasure of what we do is that we inform our eye every single moment of every day,” he continued. “How many people can just look around the room and have the pleasure of really seeing? Cinematographers have that pleasure. We must be this way in order to give what we can give to a film.”
“I’ve already used this new stock on a commercial I shot just before the festival, and I’m very pleased,” said Dabal. “It’s absolutely a great improvement, especially, as we saw in the demo, in the latitude. With the latitude, I could deal much more easily with overexposure, and maintain shadow detail. It was a beer commercial. There were a lot of tight shots, macro stuff, product shots. I achieved the results that the demo was promising and I was really, really pleased.”
Later that night, Kodak hosted its annual Camerimage cinematographers’ dinner, held as always on an elaborately dressed soundstage at Opus Film Studio.
At the Grand Theater, the film demo was followed by Alexander, the epic Oliver Stone-Rodrigo Prieto collaboration. The final screening of the festival was outside the competition: House of Flying Daggers, a Chinese-Hong Kong production photographed by Xiaoding Zhao. Festival goers, looking forward to Saturday’s awards ceremony, left the theater and made the short journey to the Evergreen Club for one last night of revelry.
Thursday, December 2:
Competition screenings on day six of the festival included The Educators, a German-Austrian production photographed by Daniel Knapp and Matthias Schellenberg, and Zatoichi, a Japanese entry photographed by Katsumi Yanagijima, JSC. Seminars were led by cinematographers Pierre L’homme, AFC, Rodrigo Prieto, ASC, Christopher Doyle and Polish writer Andrzej Zulawski.
Kodak’s Nhon Chu and Thierry Perronnet hosted hands-on demonstrations of the Kodak Look Management System (KLMS). Meanwhile, across town on a packed soundstage at the Opus Film Studio, Prieto lit a scene for daylight and then relit the same scene for evening conditions, all the while explaining his approach and answering questions. This lighting seminar was sponsored by ARRI.
Isi Sarfati is a young cinematographer based in Mexico attending Camerimage for the first time. “You get a great chance to meet amazing people in a very relaxed way,” he says of the festival. “You have a chance to share friendly moments with them. There are 10,000 things going on every day, and you can stay busy from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m., but at the same time the feeling is relaxed. You get to have one-on-one experiences with everyone from students to top-notch directors of photography, and there’s no other place I’ve had that kind of interaction.”
Thursday ended with the Kodak Student Party, held this year at the Evergreen Club at the Hotel Centrum. The party featured entertainment by a popular Polish act called Sistars, a group led by twin sisters.
Wednesday, December 1:
The Happiness Thief, for example, was a Tim Burton-esque fractured fairy tale with a dreamlike look and professional quality makeup effects. Shot on the Thomson Viper FilmStream camera, it was made by a student at the National Film and Television School in the United Kingdom. Loose Contact, about a child’s attempt to keep her aging grandmother hidden from the object of her schoolgirl crush, was an entry from the Hochschule fu(umlaut)r Gestaltung und Kunst in Zurich, Switzerland. From a student at the Escola Superior de Cinema y Audiovisuals de Catalunya in Spain came The Natural Route, which traced back to the origins of a tragic ending (in this case the beginning) by playing filmed images backwards. Winter was a wordless mediation on youth and age, played in unfussy yet elegant black and white. Winter was made by students at the Polish National Film School here in Lodz.
Tuesday, November 30:
Day four of the Camerimage festival began with a non-competitive screening of Paradigma, the story of an idealistic young man whose integrity is compromised by a series of life choices. Cinematographer Slawomir Idziak, PSC and director Krzysztof Zanussi followed the screening with a seminar in which they revealed the thought processes behind the making of the film.
Stapleton continued to compare directing and shooting. “People on the set often tell me I have the best job in filmmaking,” he says. “In some ways it’s true. I am incapable of ‘doing lunch.’ There are years of lunches that have to happen before a film begins. The job of cinematographer goes with the actual making of the film, can be incredibly interesting and very, very satisfying. But and it’s a big but it’s not yours. It is not yours. In certain regard, my garden at home, which I have created myself, is more important to me than any film I’ve worked on, because it is mine. On a film, you can contribute the pictures, and give tremendous support to the director. But you are contributing to the director’s film. Ten years ago, I might have been a little sad about this fact, but today, at 56, I’m quite content. I will make another film or two of my own, but at this point, I we become a lifetime director.”
A question came from the audience about what makes an excellent camera assistant. “We just shot 600,000 feet of film without one scratch,” he replied. “Not a single scratch. That’s obviously a tribute to a good lab, but it’s also the result of a superior camera assistant. We were in Venice and we were on and off of boats all the time. It was a very difficult situation, but the assistant kept the whole crew absolutely meticulous about the cleanliness and handling of the cameras. There was half an hour of prep in the morning and an hour at wrap for cleaning. That’s why you don’t get scratches.
Later on Tuesday the film The Great Water screened as part of the main competition. The film was well received by the packed house. Cinematographer Suki Medencevic grew up in the former Yugoslavia and is now based on Los Angeles. In a Q&A session after the film, he explained that coming back to the Balkans to shoot a feature film was an emotional experience. The story is told through a dying man’s memory and includes bold use of color to delineate time periods. A digital intermediate process was performed at a facility in Copenhagen.
“It was a very, very difficult shoot in many ways,” he said. “For me it was like going to fight a war. I lost 20 kilos making this picture. When I ordered the film it often took ten days to pass through customs. When it was time to shoot, we had to use any kind of film stock we had on hand. We must have used every kind of stock there is. The digital intermediate helped to compensate for the differences. We were working with children, which meant that often we didn’t get our lead actors until noon. Although the local crew people used were enthusiastic, there was definitely a degree of teaching involved, especially in terms of efficiency and speed.
“In many cases we had to improvise solutions,” he said. “One example is the helicopter shot that opens the film. We had a huge old Soviet helicopter and no modern mount was available or adaptable. I hung the camera with several bungee cords and tried to hold it steady as we shot through a hole in the floor. All these challenges make me very proud of what we accomplished, especially considering the small budget. I’m happy to say that the finished film is exactly the film we envisioned at the beginning.”
The Camerimage International Festival of the Art of Cinematography was launched in 1993. Festival founder and director Marek Zydowicz says that the founders chose to focus on cinematography because it is a universal art form that doesn’t get the attention it deserves at many other festivals. In addition to inspiring and recognizing excellence in the art of cinematography, they envisioned a global forum where filmmakers from around the world could meet to discuss issues and exchange ideas. The festival moved from Torun to Lodz in 2000, where the Polish national film school is located.
© 2004 American Society of Cinematographers.