Madelyn Most attended and reviewed this year’s International Film Festival of the Art of Cinematography, Bydgoszcz, Poland November 24 – December 1, 2012.
Some years are better than others, but in its 20th anniversary, Camerimage was tremendous. Dedicated exclusively to the art of cinematography and the image makers, Camerimage showcased Russian and Eastern Europe works, Hollywood blockbusters, Western European movies, and modest films from remote parts of the world, exploring a wider spectrum of cinematic themes and styles, political, historical perspectives and psychological studies with contradictory points of view. The films in competition are judged for their visual story telling. No one is selling or hustling anything here; with the commercial aspects removed, those who make this long, arduous journey to Bydgoszcz are intensely and demonstratively enthusiastic about the films they see, the people they meet during these very special 8 days.
Although Camerimage has expanded enormously, it still feels intimate. With so many events happening simultaneously under the Opera Nova roof, it’s difficult choosing what to attend: a Main Competition screening, a Master class, a technical workshop, a Classic film in the retrospective category, a Q & A with some legendary cineaste, a feature length documentary you’ll never see anywhere else, a new equipment demo…
This year’s recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award was (83 year old but still working) Russian cinematographer Vadim Ivanovich Yusov, recognized for his collaboration with the great Andrey Tarkovsky. David Lynch was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award for Directing, Alan Heim was given the Award to the Editor with Unique Visual Sensitivity, the legendary Polish actor, Daniel Olbrychski received the Acting Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Art of Film, Michael Lindsay-Hogg received the Music Video Pioneer Award, and Steven Okazaki received the Award for Outstanding Achievement in Documentary Filmmaking. The Cinematographer-Director Duo Award was given to the Harris Savides-Gus Van Sant collaboration.
Opening ceremonies kicked off on Saturday evening 24 November with Chris Kenneally’s intelligent and engaging documentary “Side by Side” (produced by Keanu Reeves) followed by Ang Lee’s dazzling interpretation of “Life of Pi”.
On Sunday, 36 films competed for one’s attention: there were Nestor Almendros retrospectives and Ken Loach’s work as part of Irish Cinema Review, Polish competition movies, some interesting quirky Documentary features and shorts in the “Images of the World –World in Images” category. The Main Competition films were: “Beasts of the Southern Wild”, “Argo”, and “Jesus Hospital” followed by press conferences with their cinematographers, “Andrei Rublev” and “Solaris” were projected as part of Vadim Yusov’s retrospective. Highlights of the day were: the very animated Press conferences with Ben Richardson discussing the very structured and precise way they planned, rehearsed, and photographed “Beasts” on Super 16mm in natural daylight; a public screening and Q&A with the director, cinematographer, and producer of “Side by Side” which was followed by a more lighthearted debate/discussion/banter between Keanu Reeves and Jury President Joel Schumacher about the real problems facing filmmakers with the demise of celluloid and the precarious “Future of Film”; an inspiring Claudio Miranda giving a Sony F65 Master class explaining how he ignored everything they advised him to do as he tried to “break the camera” in order to get the images he wanted for “Life of Pi” (while voicing his deep concerns and disapproval over the terrible projection quality of the Main Theatre), and finally, Thomas Vinterberg’s “The Hunt”screened at midnight for those not affected by jetlag.
Monday offered over 32 films and was an intense day for documentary lovers (“1/2 Revolution”, “The Tundra Book”, “White Light/Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki”, after which Steven Okazaki gave a Master class and fielded audience questions,”Chasing Ice” etc…), some unique Director’s Debut and European Panorama films, Andrey Tarkovsky’s film school debut film,‘The Steamroller and the Violin’, and several vintage David Lynch films. All the equipment stands were up and running: ARRI had the prototype Master Anamorphic lens on display, showcased the ARRI/Fujinon Alura Lightweight Zooms and L7 LED light fixtures, while promoting the Alexa Fibre Remote Option used integrated into multi-camera broadcast style concerts, and if you thought you hallucinated or imagined something before each screening, you didn’t – there is the rumour that sometime in 2013 the new Panavision 70mm digital camera will make an appearance.
Main competition screenings included: the 6 stories woven together in the German science fiction film “Cloud Atlas,” the magnificent dramatic performances in “The Master,” and the Polish film “My Father’s Bike.” Paul Cameron gave a Red Digital Cinema Workshop and a 4K presentation. There was a Carl Zeiss presentation called “Available Light is all you need to Express your Creativity.” There was a Seminar For Producers, and a Q&A with David Lynch. The day closed with the 11 PM screening of Paul Greengrass’ “Bloody Sunday”. Highlights of the day included: Frank Griebe, Tom Tykwer’s cinematographer on “Cloud Atlas” talking about sharing the look of the film with John Toll for the Lana and Andy Wachowski directed sequences; Mihai Malaimare Jr., DP on Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master” discussed his work shooting 65mm with 9 minute magazines and still getting great performances by “doing things for real” with natural light on celluloid, and Vadim Yusov discussed his long illustrious career in Russian cinema.
Tuesday was a busy day with well over 41 films projected. Main competition films included the frenetically photographed and edited “Hatred” from Iran, the deeply disturbing “War Witch” (“Rebelle”) from Canada, the poignant story of history and memory in “Manhunt” from Poland, and the Bill Murray-as-FDR offering of “Hyde Park on Hudson” from the UK. Special screenings included Dustin Hoffman’s graceful directorial debut “Quartet” and a midnight screening of Arthur Newman photographed by Eduard Grau, Jury member of Student Etudes competition. There were many workshops and seminars: “Smart Performance” tackled the psychology of film (only in Polish), the much-anticipated morning Panavision seminar: “Cinematography Tips, Techniques & Trends” moderated by Benjamin B. included Giora Bejach, Rob Hardy, Ed Lachman, Mihai Malaimare Jr., John Mathieson, and Arthur Reinhart in an informal discussion touching on important “issues” facing DPs today, a lively “Seminar for Film Critics about the Art of Cinematography,” the afternoon Panavision seminar entitled, “Camera Movement and Framing” with the same participants, Sony’s 4K Presentation with Vilmos Zsigmond and Frederic Goodich showing their demo film “Kickstart Theft” shot on Sony F65, an Editing Seminar about “Manhunt” led by Wojtek Mrowczynski and Adam Kwiatek, an Imago Master Class “Framing the Image,” led by Andreas Fisher Hansen and Wolfgang Thaler, Vilmos Zsigmond and Yuri Neyman discussing The Advanced Program in Classical and Virtual Cinematography at their Global Cinematography Institute, a Sony Seminar: Cinematography with the new F5/F55, and finally the ICG Emerging Cinematographer Awards Winners Show. Highlights of this dizzying day: watching sections of Truffaut’s “The Last Metro” again, and meeting friends at the late night ARRI party.
Wednesday traditionally is devoted to the Student Etudes program and there were too many films to count, although it was another busy documentary day. With only 2 Main competition films, “Broken” and “Manhunt,” you could sneak in and out of other screenings (“The Wild Child,” “The Elephant Man,” “The Green Room,” “All That Jazz,” “Ivan’s Childhood”) and reminisce when films were really Great. Workshops included: K5600 and Transvideo Presentations, Lighting Tools and Techniques moderated by Benjamin B. with cinematographers, gaffers, DITs, and technical reps from Deluxe, London, an MKBK Presentation, “Zepar Stereo 3D: Product-Use Experience” with Perepichay Vadim, the Kodak seminar, “Image is Everything, Protect it” about archiving digital works on film for posterity, a Music Videos Master Class by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, a “Meeting with Alan Heim” editor of “All That Jazz”, a CineAlta 4K Presentation showing short films shot with Sony F5/F55 cameras with Steve Lawes and Dominique Colin, a Vantage/HAWK workshop, a 9:30 P.M. and a 1:30 A.M. Music Videos Master Class with the wildly creative genius that is Chris Doyle. Highlights of the day included: the beautiful imagery in a short doc called “Winter Light”, the hilarious Chris Doyle workshops and late night film discussions at Panavision’s yearly celebration.
Thursday was a difficult day to get through, faces showing signs of fatigue and exhaustion. Only 2 Main Competition films, “ The Wild Ones” (Argentina, Netherlands) and “Broken.” The rest of the day was filled up by documentaries, European Panorama, Directors Debut films, Polish Competition films, the Music Videos competition with a long Q&A session with the filmmakers, the Advertising Spots competition, Adam Holender speaking about “Panic in Needle Park,” and a Master Class given by Mitja Okorn (“Letters to Santa”). ARRI presented a full day of workshops including “Lighting and Camera Work for Different Formats” that had Danny Cohen (“The King’s Speech”, “Les Miserables”) conducting a lighting workshop where students lit and photographed a studio set using the amazing Alexa camera. In the afternoon, Gernot Roll did a Black and White cinematography workshop with the Alexa camera. Oliver Stapleton presented an interesting master class; there was a discussion panel (in Polish only) “How to teach cinematography;” and a CineAlta 4K Presentation. Chris Doyle gave a philosophical Master Class called “Away with Words: Words and Image Intercourse.” Cinemas outside the opera house held screenings of “On the Road,” “The Rolling Stones Rock & Roll Circus,” and at midnight, Steve McQueen’s first feature, “Hunger” while people straggled back to hotels from the Kodak dinner.
Friday (my last day, containing anxiety of the dreaded Ryanair and the 2-hour drive down a foggy frozen M25 in the wee hours of the morning) was an intensely busy day with 3 Main competition films: “Lawrence Anyways,” the worthy poetic “Rhino Season” (from Iraq, Kurdistan, Turkey, Cuba), and the zany but visually stunning and astute “Holy Motors” photographed by Caroline Champetier. There was a tribute to honour the memory of Harris Savides in the evening by Gus Van Sant and Chris Doyle. Friday’s technical session and master classes were: ”Philippe Ros, who screened a trilogy of his short robot films, “Ecobot”, ”Citibot” and ”Luvbot”, showing his latest research with the Sony F65 workfow in the ACES architecture, an “Interior lighting techniques” by Oliver Stapleton in the ARRI and Osram workshop, the Vittorio Storaro Master class attended by hundreds of attentive fans who heard him speak about “The Art of Cinematography”, the Mike Figgis master class, Imago’s offering “The Operator and the Image” Master class with Roberto Schaffer and Oliver Stapleton, Music Video master classes led by Glaca and Christopher Soos, and a Meeting with director Roger Spottiswood. The day concluded with a midnight screening of the Taviani brothers’ “Caesar Must Die.”
On Saturday, there was another tribute to Harris Savides with Gus Van Sant, Anthony Dod Mantle, Chris Doyle and Jason McCormick, screenings of “Dredd” in 3D, “Moonrise Kingdom,” and “The Straight Story,” while those invited made their way to the Closing Ceremonies.
The jury of the Main Competition was headed by Director Joel Schumacher and consisted of Stephen Goldblatt, Michael Glawogger, Piers Handling, Christine Rothe, Michael Seresin, and Arthur Reinhart who rigorously debated the merits of each film and finally awarded The Camerimage Golden Frog to “War Witch” (“Rebelle”) photographed by Nicolas Bolduc. (Directed by Kim Nguyen). The Silver Frog was awarded to “Holy Motors” photographed by Caroline Champetier (Directed by Leos Carax).The Bronze Frog was awarded to “Rhino Season” photographed by Touraj Aslani (Directed by Bahman Ghobadi).
If I had one closing remark or observation to make after this long and wonderful festival, it would be that everything relies on the quality of the projection. You can talk all you want about the advantages of digital, but if the projectors are not corrected, standardized, or do not conform, even the most beautiful masterpiece will (and sometimes did) look less than stellar.
Photos by Marco Mueller: