by Madelyn Most.
Camerimage 2013. Bydgoszcz, Poland Nov 17-23
If you’re lucky enough to get yourself to Bydgoszcz, you catch the buzz and excitement; each year gets better, friendlier, warmer. But bigger and better means denser, more concentrated, more demanding. With “fulfillment” comes “frustration:” choosing between 3, 4, or 5 equally important events all running in parallel. One option is to leapfrog between the Main Competition, European Panorama, Polish Films Competition, 3- D Films Competition, Documentaries, Dutch Films Review, Directors’ Debuts Competition, Cinematographer’s Debuts Competition, Student Etudes, Music Videos and Retrospectives and dive out in time for workshops, seminars, panels, technical demos, master classes or press conferences that are like no others in the entire world. End result is overstimulation, bloodshot eyes, spinning head- collapsing each night exhausted and drained with stages of sleep interrupted by images of the day flashing back like postcards. Satisfied you pushed it to the limit, you get ready to start all over again.
Camerimage is unique because of the large selection of films from Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Germany, Romania, Serbia, and Montenegro, Austria, Estonia, and Russia that we in the West might never get to see. Stories are dark, serious and sobering, with recurring historical references and political themes that pull the characters under in their attempt to resist, revolt, fight for their human rights or to free their nation from corrupt dictatorship. We experience their struggles with deeper reverberation sitting in a cinema in Poland where the psychological scarring of two World Wars and the Nazi occupation will never be healed and life under Communism and Socialism under the Soviet Union’s stranglehold remains fresh in the collective memory.
Slawomir Idziak received this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award, John Turturro received the Special Award for Actor-Director, Rick Carter received the Special Award for Production Designer with Unique Visual Sensitivity, Joan Churchill received the Award for Outstanding Achievement in Documentary Filmmaking, Jim Sheridan received the Lifetime Achievement Award for Directing, Roberto Schaefer and Marc Forster received the Cinematographer-Director Duo Award, Joel Cox the Award for Editor with Unique Visual Sensitivity, Samuel Bayer for Outstanding Achievement in Music Videos, and Ron Howard should have picked up the Excellence in Directing Award but he and Anthony Dod Mantle, stranded in the Canary Islands, never showed up.
Saturday night’s Opening Ceremonies were wedged between John Lee Hancock’s “Saving Mr. Banks” lensed by John Schwartzman and Terry Gilliam’s “The Zero Theorem” with his longtime collaborator and cinematographer Nicola Peccorini by his side to entertain everyone with zest and vigor at the Q&A session afterwards. Production Designer Rick Carter appeared genuinely appreciative and sincere receiving his Award and on Sunday, presented a thoughtful, inspiring master class at the Multikino with clips from “Jurassic Park,” “Forrest Gump,” “War Horse,” and “Avatar” that dazzled the jam-packed auditorium.
Sunday started off with a bang- in Competition were “Dallas Buyers Club”, “Rush” and “Burning Bush.”
Wladyslaw Bartoszewsi held a conference, Slawomir Idziak gave a Seminar, Agnieszka Holland and Martin Strba did an extensive q&a session following the wonderful “Burning Bush” about Jan Palach in 1969 Prague. Technical meetings included Carl Zeiss presentation and Freefly Systems presentation wit hMovi Handheld 3-Axis Digitial Stablilized Camera Gimbal. Those disciplined enough to sit through 244 minutes were rewarded “At Berkeley”, brilliantly photographed by John Davey, Fred Wiseman’s cinematographer & collaborator for over twenty five years on thirty films, but many agreed the editing should be tightened up.
Monday morning’s roster of strong films in all categories competed for the proverbial ‘bums on seats’: Lee Daniel’s “Butler”, Poland’s “Traffic Department”, Werner Herzog’s “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” in 3- D, Sundance hit “Upstream Color”, Poland’s Competition film, “In the Name Of”, and Swiss- French offering, “Mary Queen of Scots”, but during lunch I crept into the Marcel Carné 1945 black & white masterpiece “Les Enfants du Paradise” projected on an enormous screen and marveled how richly layered, textured, and beautifully constructed it was.
Technical events included a Sony 4 K Presentation, a Fletcher Camera & Lenses presentation with Michael Seresin, Franz Lustig hosted the Canon EOS C300 Workshop, and a Hawk workshop introduced prominent DPs on shooting anamorphic.
Tuesday exploded with the graphic brutality of Mexico’s “Heli” in the Main competition, then “Life Feels Good” from Poland, surrounded by numerous documentaries, European Panorama and 3-D films, but it was the Panavision lens seminar that was standing-room- only with panelists Denis Lenoir, Phedon Papamichael, John Schwartzman, Lucasz Zal, and Steven Poster all sharing adventures, anecdotes, and their film clips with Benjamin B. moderating. Some noteworthy quotes from John Schwartzman: “Life is better in Scope”, “What to do when you have no control–use several cameras” and “Spray & Pray” which evolved into a discussion about the distinct advantages of shooting film over digital, but it must be said, when the black & white clip from “IDA” came up, (shot on an Alexa), panelists and audience let out an audible sigh at the sheer beauty of the imagery.
At its stand, ARRI showed the new Amira camera which they first announced at IBC in September and also ZEISS Master Anamorphic lenses. The ARRI Rental Group presented their exclusive ALEXA Black & White camera.
On its stand, Panavision introduced their Primo V series Lenses, optimized for digital cameras.
Sony’s booth displayed the F5, F55 and the F65 cameras with many people delving into the Menus and asking questions .
Canon showed off their Cinema EOS cameras and lenses, and Filip Kovcin discussed C500 4K and Canon RAW format.
Panavision’s afternoon workshop focused on cinematography tips, techniques and trends with Simon Duggan, Rachel Morrison, Declan Quinn and Piotr Sobocinski, closely followed by a screening of “Wicked Blood”, a feature shot in 4K on the Sony F55 by Gregg Easterbrook. After receiving his Award, John Turturro presented the film he directed, “Fading Gigolo”, while our panel, “Digital cameras, creative workflows” hosted by Sony, with Philippe Ros, Roberto Schaefer, Henning Raedlein of ARRI Munich, Filip Kovcin, Stephen Lighthill, Fred Goodich, Tom Crocker, SONY EUROPE NORWAY, Simon Lenkowski, Tommaso Vergallo, DIGIMAGE FRANCE, Paul Atkinson, CANON EUROPE UK, Patrick Leplat, PANAVISION France, Jay Patel DIT, UK, and Jacques Delacoux of TRANSVIDEO – AATON FRANCE, focused on strategies and solutions for cinematographers encountering a myriad of workflow possibilities but was too short to tackle all the topics. Then Alexander Payne’s highly anticipated “Nebraska” energized and endeared itself to the crowd with its understated humor and Bruce Dern’s poignant performance enhanced by Phedon Papamichael’s stunning black &white digital photography (although they were forced to deliver a color version for certain territories), followed by Phedon’s intensive press conference that transformed into a master class lasting til almost midnight when Zbigniew (Ziggi) Banas, (the festival’s accomplished press conference host/translator/film historian) reminded us it was time to hit the Arri party. Die-hards were engrossed in Chris Doyle’s unmissable seminar, “Away with Words” that was so popular and populated, he did another one the following night.
Wednesday is traditionally Student Etudes day, while Imago held its annual forum examining today’s (appalling) “Working Conditions in Digital Times” and discussing legislation, contracts, author’s rights, and defining uniform controls to establish reasonable working hours and practices among the member countries all within the context of the ever changing role of the cinematographer. ZEISS gave a lens demo,Todd McCarthy accompanied his “Visions of Light” documentary, and while the anguish of watching “Which Way is the Front Line? The Life and Times of Tim Hetherington” for the fourth time does not diminish, I get more out of the film each time, getting closer to understanding how photographers in war zones live. Then came Steve McQueen’s powerful drama “Twelve Years A Slave” followed by a Q&A with the gentle man and artist that is Sean Bobbitt. ARRI’s lecture by Franz Kraus “Consideration for the future of cinema” was chocker block full of company heads and enthusiastic listeners who participated in the debate about how we will watch films in the future, there was a Sony 4K presentation and TJTFilm presented “A new digital to film colour conversion process”. Haskell Wexler’s outstanding documentary “Four Days in Chicago” was accompanied by Alan Barker who answered questions from the Polish/European audience about the Occupy movement, the Obama administration, and the strange political climate in America. Twelve more film sessions on offer but by now, most people retreated to Villa Secesja for some levity at the Panavision party.
…Which made getting up early Thursday morning a challenge- for Argentina’s Competition film,“Paradise for the Damned” , that overlapped with Robert Shacklady’s ARRI Workshop on “The Art of Black and White Cinematography.” Briskly skipping across tramway lines to Multikino’s 3-D screening of Hélene Louvart’s cinematography on Wim Wender’s “Pina” was well worth the effort , then back to the Opera House for Edgar Reitz’ “Home from Home- Chronicle of a Vision” which is an entirely new film based on the original 1984 “Heimat” television series he directed, stunningly photographed by Gernot Roll on an Alexa in black & white although some details are brush stroked with colour. Next- to Tom Stern and Reed Morano’s ARRI Workshop, while most people are running off to the Multikino to watch “Gravity”in 3-D. Angenieux presented a seminar about anamorphic lenses and Joan Churchill and Alan Barker presented their “Experiential Cinema Workshop” which all attending say was fantastic. Joan was worked hard this year engaging in q&a discussions after each of her retrospective landmark documentaries and presiding over the Documentary jury. When the Music Video Competition blasted off in the Main screening room, many assembled to hear Kodak’s presentation, reassuring us they will continue to manufacture film negative, and then Bruno Delbonnel and Sean Bobbitt livened things up with pithy remarks citing the advantages of, and their particular preferences for, photographing on celluloid. The Big Film in Competition was “Inside Llewyn Davis” introduced by Bruno on stage reminding the audience he is “not Roger Deakins” and announcing at the press conference “I just don’t care and I don’t want to know “about all that technical stuff with digital cameras.” Special screening at 11 P.M. of Jim Sheridan’s classic “My Left Foot” and at 23:45 “Multiple Visions, the Crazy Machine” from Mexico, France, Spain was also well attended by documentary enthusiasts.
Friday’s full of fantastic fanfare compressing so much into one day: Retrospectives of Slawomir Idziak’s work keeps playing and today’s Competition film is “Shirley-Visions of Reality” photographed by Jerzy Palacz. Sean Bobbitt’s handheld workshop for ARRI was extremely valuable to all, and while it was tempting to go and watch “Avatar “in 3 D again, I settled on the ending of Swiss documentary “Winter Nomads” — very thankful I don’t eat meat. Screened in the Polish Film Competition was the highly charged “Viva Belarus” superbly photographed by Witold Stok, and powerfully directed by Krzysztof Lukaszewicz, which shows very important lessons about rigged elections and voting for democracy. The Polish Association of Film Editors presented an Editing workshop, the Competition entry “Concrete Night” from Finland, Sweden, Denmark bleakened everybody’s mood, David Heuring hosted the book launch of “The Art of Cinematography” with the dynamic collaboration of Vittorio Storaro, Luciano Tovoli, Gabriele Lucci, Lorenzo Codelli, and Daniele Nannuzzi, but Bob Fisher was not present. Filip Kovcin presented a Canon seminar while the Debuts competition, Documentary special screenings, and Polish film competitions flourished with too many films to chose from. I thanked Buddha or Whoever It’s Friday– because my battery is running low by now… Friday’s BIG event is the truly spectacular visual feast, “Ida” from Poland’s Pawel Pawlikowski and his camera operator/ first time cinematographer, Lukasz Zal, who took over when Ryszard Lenczewski fell ill on the first day of shooting. The lighting and framing is unusual but never takes you out of this compelling beautiful story that makes a deep lasting impression. During the Meeting with Marc Forster and Roberto Schaefer who won the Director- Cinematographer Duo Award, they delved into their memory bank of stories on locations that were ambitious, physically and logistically challenging, politically constraining, and/or dangerous, that left some permanent scars, which brought home the reality and the deep commitment it takes to spend your lifetime travelling the world making movies. Next screening was a toss up between Sean Bobbitt’s “The Place Beyond the Pines” and Roberto’s “The Kite Runner” and at half past midnight “Enough Said” from the USA was playing, but the Hawk party at the Baroque Pod Orlem Hotel was beckoning , and it went on til dawn.
Early Saturday morning offered one of my favorites- “Position Among the Stars” alongside Marcel Carné films and a pot pourri of other classics until it was Closing Ceremonies time, punctuated by Ben Stiller’s “Secret Life of Walter Mitty” photographed by Stuart Dryburgh, but I was not there so
Zbigniew Banas reports that “Jim Sheridan gave a sweet talk of how he was teaching a class at a festival in Ireland and one of his students was a smart Polish lady who turned out to be the Polish ambassador’s wife and this chance encounter led to his coming to Camerimage. Marc Forster and Roberto Schaefer talking about their eight films together and their friendship both seemed to be moved by the occasion, Joel Cox paid tribute to Clint Eastwood and their many years of working together, Joan Churchill got emotional when noting the presence of all the great cinematographers in the auditorium, and Slawomir Idziak in his acceptance speech talked about how, unlike the directors, the cinematographers have no egos and know the value of compromise. He also spoke about embracing the future in terms of technology and by student mentoring.”
In the Main Competition, the Golden Frog was awarded to “Ida,” cinematographers: Łukasz Żal and Ryszard Lenczewski director: Paweł Pawlikowski ; The Silver Frog was awarded to “Heli,” cinematographer: Lorenzo Hagerman director: Amat Escalante; and the Bronze Frog was awarded to : “Inside Llewyn Davis,” cinematographer: Bruno Delbonnel directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen.