Camerimage- Imago Presidents Perspective.

Camerimage and Imago have both existed for 22 years. The two organisations are unique in their own way. The profession of cinematography has been made richer by the existence of both. There are not enough superlatives in the English language to describe the rolling triumph of the organisation behind Camerimage. I was privileged to experience it again in Bydgoszcz.

 

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The group at the ASC Tribute to Gordon Willis

Long evaporated are the doubts and apprehensions of the unexpected departure from Lodz. The engine of this Polish achievement is honed to run smoothly. It is worth reflecting on the reasons that make Camerimage the greatest Festival for cinematographers in the World. Unquestionably there is nothing like it anywhere, for any film craft! 
Without the genius of Marek Zydowicz the Festival would not exist. It is a triumph for his personal achievement and a magnificent advertisement for Poland and its film industry. 
Without the support of the enlightened politicians who govern the beautiful city of Bydgoszcz and environment Camerimage would not exist. 
Without the support of the Polish Institute it would be immeasurably poorer. Without the support of sponsors Camerimage would disappear. All are owed an enormous debt of gratitude from our profession.

The direct flight to Bydgoszcz conjures a mixed emotions of anticipation and trepidation for those familiar with the pleasures and excesses ahead after landing. Will the pillars still be standing? Dana Ross is now employed by Arri but will he be there? Attempts to demote Lone Star were foiled years ago by Vittorio. It would not be the same without him. Will we see our favourite cinematographer Ed Lachman when we arrive? All three were there plus the familiar security guards! Much continues to be right with the World- that is until the Red eye returns a week later. The Ryanair flight is the only red eye in the world flying in daylight.    

 

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K5600 friends in a pause from the exhibition.
Much vodka, beer and wine was to flow under the bridge before the return. Students were due for a serious induction into Polish culture. In my capacity as President of Imago the most important event of the week was to be the joint Imago/BSC presentation with Chris Menges BSC ASC. For this “inspirational” meeting an essence of sobriety was preferable. The Festival Organisers had been attempting to entice Chris to return to Camerimage since he turned down the offer of a Lifetime Achievement Award thirteen years ago. Even with two Oscars and two further nominations under his belt he modestly explained at the time that he felt honoured but just too young. The event took place on the Wednesday evening and was judged an outstanding success with standing room only among the 400 audience. Relief as it ended was followed by a surfeit of wine at the Panavision Party followed by the temporary loss of an expensive pair of spectacles. No prizes for guessing the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015!

This Festival could only be the success it is with the support of the sponsors, particularly after the last film has been screened each evening. They should not be taken for granted by cinematographers. The generosity which inspires Arri, Panavision, Vantage, Sony, Panasonic, the smaller companies and exhibitors must not be forgotten.
With nine competitions, nine juries and many hundred films screening along with a myriad of Master classes, presentations and student films, objective reporting becomes a difficult task. Following a screening of Levianthan at the Manaki Festival (surprisingly it won nothing) I was convinced that Mikhail Krichman RGC would triumph with the Golden Frog. The difficult decision is often between Silver and Bronze.
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With the hundreds of films showing it is hardly surprising to watch one or two” suspect” films. Every year the question is asked as to who selects the competition films. I even asked the same such as a sadly unbelievable Moroccan film about an Iranian using English dialogue. Last year the film Ida deservedly swept the Board. Juries have the most unenviable task. Nine jury members in some competitions would seem a step too far but there was no doubting in my expectation, that the eventual winner would be Mikhail Krichman RGC. However after viewing the Chinese film Coming Home, shot by their greatest cinematographer Xiaoding Zhao, doubts crept in and I imagined the Golden Frog going even further eastwards. It was not to be and fortunately there are no bookmakers taking bets- yet. The Silver Frog for the excellent Palestinian film Omar is a huge boost for their film industry as was the Golden Camera Award in Manaki Bros for The Tribe to its Ukrainian film makers. The cinematographer of Omar was Ehab Assal. Andre Turpin won the Bronze for Mommy, a French Canadian film, the screened in competition.

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Mikhail Krichman RGC Golden Frog winner at Press Conference following screening

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The outstanding film showing at Camerimage was 66 years old. It was a magnificently restored copy of The Red Shoes, lovingly introduced by Scorsese, which elevated my appreciation of the genius of Jack Cardiff to even greater heights. The faultless craft values included the ability to hear every word unlike some of the films in main competition. The time has come for some films (mainly American) to consider sub-titling in English if only for the understanding of an English speaking Welshman! God help poor Europeans who struggle enough to understand English!

Chris-nigel JBT 4198a

 

From left to right. Chris Menges and Nigel Walters; Vilmos Zsigmond and Nigel Walters president of IMAGO trying the new «digital» camera in the market.
Photos by James Bryan Toten

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The ASC Tribute to Gordon Willis ASC who sadly left us earlier this year included Vilmos Zsigmond , Mathew Libatique, Ed Lachman and Stephen Pizzello. It was moderated by Benjamin B. A book about this most respected and admired of cinematographers will be published.
Breaking news on Thursday on the death of Mike Nichols (born Mikhail Igor Peschkowsky) caused a depression over a sunless week on the weather front.
On the Imago front the time was fruitful. The German BvK and the Polish PSC met to collaborate on a memorandum to protect Authors Rights in the digital age with particular relevance to the internet. The revival of the Polish Society has been a particular pleasure to me in my six years as President. Film is alive and kicking in Poland and the craft of cinematography and our 47 Societies are the beneficiaries.

Stephen Poster ASC indicated his willingness to speak at the Imago European Conference which takes place in the presence of EU MEPs in Brussels on March 21st and 22nd. Camerimage is often an opportunity to discuss the issues of working conditions and authors rights in Europe. Imago will hold a meeting at Camerimage next year. The problems of the profession needs to be aired in front of the younger generation. There is no better opportunity than in Bydgoszcz and Imago must seize it.
As a cinematographer a useful motto is always expect the unexpected. Camerimage is the place for this to happen. Present at the BSC/Imago Chris Menges presentation, unknown to me, was my near neighbour Johann Perry, a distinguished documentary cinematographer who together with Neil Harvey was giving a workshop on the Amira camera. The following day in the main restaurant the President of the New Zealand Society, Richard Bluck NZCS introduced himself. Richard had also attended the presentation and took the opportunity to reminisce about working with Chris as his focus puller in New Zealand. He had his 3D film, Beyond the Edge in competition, mixing archive and reconstructed scenes from the Everest triumph of 1953. Richard had travelled the furthest distance to show his film. It won!

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                                   Panavision/Lee Filters relaxing between shows

 

An unexpected email request from one of Camerimage’s most loyal supporters arrived from David Hilton in London. I remember Lazlo in Lodz always talking to him as a lifelong friend. Due to family illness David was unable to be present but desperately wanted a copy of the incredible book which the Festival publishes to commemorate each recipient of the Lifetime Achievement. He has never failed to have a book signed and my mission was to track down Caleb Deschanel ASC. The search resulted in success as this charming man was about to walk in to judge his final Polish film. My other mission ended in abject failure. It was a request from the President of the ACS, Ron Johanson, to assist a first time visitor to Camerimage, a cinematographer named Ashley Baron. The failure was not through lack of effort. Perhaps Camerimage should have a booth marked Meeting Place where messages could be left. A lost and found office for cinematographers! I did manage to shake hands with Dion Beebe in the foyer. Unfortunately no sign of Don McAlpine ASC ACS who is probably still recovering from the shock of the theft of his computer in the BA lounge some years ago.

At Camerimage there are many ghosts around but I am sure I would have enjoyed meeting Ashley Baron. The pleasure will have to be postponed for another day. The Saturday morning I was heading westwards on the Red Eye to Stanstead for a change of air among the Poles of West London. Also to see Wales lose again to New Zealand in rugby. Apart from the forty young students from a York College who were still amazingly full of energy, many of the amorphous bunch of fellow travellers on board appeared some days away from normality.

Camerimage has that effect.
Long may it continue!

Nigel Walters BSC / IMAGO