The Year’s Top Cinematographers Head to Poland for Camerimage

by Daniel Eagan

The world’s top cinematographers will gather at the Camerimage festival in Toruń, Poland, between November 9 and 16. Now in its 27th year, Camerimage is one of the first and only film festivals to celebrate the art and science of cinematography.

Camerimage has become a reliable predictor of Oscar voting. Last year’s festival featured four of the five DPs nominated for the Best Cinematography award.

According to festival office manager Kazik Suwala, 220 titles will screen this year, selected from some 3000 submissions. Suwala expects roughly 800 cinematographers to attend, along with 4,500 or so guests, students, vendors, and fans. 

While the festival remains steadily focused on cinematography, it also honors filmmakers in general. This year Edward Norton will receive the Krzysztof Kieślowski Award, named for the famed Polish director. Two-time Oscar-winner Jan Roelfs will be honored for his work as a production designer. And director Quentin Tarantino and cinematographer Robert Richardson will receive a Cinematographer-Director Duo Award for their collaboration on Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Films screen in several locations, all within walking distance of each other. The CKK Jordanki has a 700-seat theater in addition to conference rooms for seminars and master classes. With 300 seats, the Horzyca Theatre hosts documentary screenings and filmmaker interviews. Specialized screenings will take place in a 130-seat theater in the Center for Contemporary Art. In addition, the festival will take over three screens at the City Cinema multiplex.

Camerimage offers awards in several categories, including the Main Competition, which includes thirteen features this year. Other awards series include Documentary shorts and features, Cinematographers’ Debuts, Directors’ Debuts, Polish Films, TV Pilots, Music Videos, and Student Etudes.

The festival is a tremendous opportunity for students and industry newcomers to learn from experts.

“We started a special program for students in 1997 that has continued in every subsequent festival,” Suwala says by phone from Camerimage headquarters. “We also have a homestay program that allows students to live with families during the festival. Last year we hosted about 900 students from 120 different film and art schools.”

These students can attend close to seventy seminars and workshops scheduled throughout the festival. For example, Rodrigo Prieto (The Irishman) will lead a talk on Zeiss lenses; Ed Lachman (Dark Waters), on Fujifilm. Julio Macat (After the Wedding) will give a master class on Arri cameras. Vittorio Storaro (Apocalypse Now) will give a talk entitled “The MUSES of LIGHT.” And Chris Doyle will host what has become an annual tradition: his free-wheeling discourse on the philosophy of filmmaking, highlighted by film clips and special guests.

The relaxed, laid-back atmosphere gives students and guests unusual access to veteran cinematographers. “There are no borders here,” Suwala notes. “A few celebrities may have limited time available, but in general access is easy.

“What I’m hearing more often these days is that the students come here to learn, while the veterans come to charge their batteries,” he adds. “Phillip Noyce, who was the jury president for the Student Etudes competition last year, said it was a blast to watch their work, much of it better than the features he saw. The experience gave him a lot of inspiration for his next project.”

Suwala points to the Talent Demo as another unique opportunity at Camerimage. The program brings students and aspiring filmmakers together with cinematographers, directors, producers, distributors, talent agents, and other industry figures to discuss their ideas. 

“So they can come and talk to Dick Pope, for example, about their projects and learn what he thinks about them,” he says. “Young filmmakers told us that the panels allowed them to see their projects from new angles, helped them to improve their work. A few short films have already been completed using this process.”

The Camerimage Market gives guests the chance to examine state-of-the-art equipment from industry leaders like Arri, Sony, Zeiss, Panasonic, Canon, and Vantage Film. In return, vendors learn what cinematographers think is or isn’t working, leading to design improvements on their products.

Camerimage began in Toruń, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in 1993. A medieval city whose origins stretch back to the eighth century, Toruń is famous for its gingerbread and for Nicolaus Copernicus, who was born and educated here. In recent years it has become a vibrant cultural center, hosting festivals devoted to theater, literature, puppetry, even jazz and reggae.

Festival director Marek Żydowicz and the festival staff are returning to Toruń in part because the city agreed to collaborate on the construction of a new, $150,000,000 festival center. In October the Toruń City Council approved the formation of the European Film Center Camerimage, the first step in securing financing for the center. 

The tightly packed Camerimage schedule doesn’t leave much time for touring Toruń, especially not if guests expect to attend the festival’s famous industry parties. For the past few years the most coveted swag has been the Anamorphic Club Party T-shirts found at the Vantage Film blow-out.

2019 Main Competition Slate

Director: Espen Sandberg
Cinematographer: Pål Ulvik Rokseth

Director: Dan Pritzker
Cinematographer: Neal Norton

Ford v Ferrari
Director: James Mangold
Cinematographer: Phedon Papamichael

The Irishman
Director: Martin Scorsese
Cinematographer: Rodrigo Prieto

Director: Todd Phillips
Cinematographer: Lawrence Sher

The Last Black Man in San Francisco
Director: Joe Talbot
Cinematographer: Adam Newport-Berra

Motherless Brooklyn
Director: Edward Norton
Cinematographer: Dick Pope

Mr. Jones
Director: Agnieszka Holland
Cinematographer: Tomasz Naumiuk

Never Look Away
Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Cinematographer: Caleb Deschanel

An Officer and a Spy
Director: Roman Polański
Cinematographer: Paweł Edelman

The Painted Bird
Director: Václav Marhoul
Cinematographer: Vladimír Smutný

Director: Yimou Zhang
Cinematographer: Xiaoding Zhao

The Two Popes
Director: Fernando Meirelles
Cinematographer: César Charlone

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