If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the organizers of the Camerimage Intl. Festival of the Art of Cinematography should blush. A number of similar film festivals are gaining momentum, including the Manaki Bros. Intl. Cinematographers’ Film Festival in Macedonia, Ostrava Kamera Oko Intl. Festival of Cinematographers in the Czech Republic and the nascent Bristol Festival of Cinematography. But the question asked around the American Society of Cinematographers clubhouse and anywhere camera people gather as summer wanes, is, “Will I see you in Poland?”
Chris Menges, Walter Murch and Sandy Powell are among those who have made the journey to Bydgoszcz, in western Poland, for the 23rd Camerimage, which kicked off Nov. 14 with a screening of Steven Spielberg’s “Bridge of Spies,” featuring the work of frequent collaborator and Polish native Janusz Kaminski.
The showcase has gained a position of dominance with a single-minded focus on celebrating the creators of motion picture imagery. The fest is growing year after year — more than 500 cinematographers are expected, and perhaps 800 students from 130 countries. Camera pros from the U.S. are inevitably delighted by the European esteem for them as artists.
Matthew Libatique, who will serve on the main competition jury this year, says Camerimage “is a great chance to socialize, but it’s also an important and refreshing opportunity to see the imagery being created around the world. It’s inspiring.”
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Camerimage is legendary among students and aspiring filmmakers for its warm, casual vibe and vodka-soaked clubbing. The remoteness of Bydgoszcz, the home of the fest since 2010, affords top directors of photography a rare and cherished opportunity to hobnob and exchange information without distraction.
The unique atmosphere starts with arts programmer and festival founder Marek Zydowicz. “We began with the goal of raising the prestige of these great visual storytellers, whose work is crucial to cinema, the art of our time,” he says. Zydowicz calls Camerimage a “fascinating confluence of visual art and ever-changing technology” and promises this year’s incarnation “to be the best yet.”
Menges will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award along with a retrospective of his work (“The Killing Fields,” “Kes,” “The Mission,” “Local Hero,” “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”). “Chris Menges is the benchmark to which we all aspire,” says fellow Brit Roger Deakins.
In addition to more than 350 screenings, the weeklong festival slate includes innumerable parties hosted by such sponsors as Panavision, Panasonic and Arri. Among the eminent cinematographers expected to serve on juries are John Toll, John Seale, Ellen Kuras and Russian d.p. Mikhail Krichman, winner of last year’s top prize — the Golden Frog — for “Leviathan.”
Among the other honorees, editor and sound designer Murch, costume designer Powell and the duo of Vittorio Storaro and Majid Majidi (“Muhammad: The Messenger of God”) will be the subjects of tributes. The work of the late d.p. Gunnar Fischer, Ingmar Bergman’s indispensable collaborator, will be among the retrospectives, as will a panel, hosted by the ASC, devoted to the legacy of the late Conrad Hall (“Road to Perdition,” “American Beauty”), a longtime friend of the fest.
Fifteen films will figure into the main competition, including “The 33,” “Brooklyn,” “Carol,” “I Saw the Light,” “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Sicario.”
Among the panel highlights, members of the Pixar animation team will discuss their work on “Inside Out,” and Steadicam inventor Garrett Brown will host a panel. The work of the late Polish painter, sculptor and photographer Zdzislaw Beksinski will be exhibited. Seminars and demonstrations are planned by Codex Digital, Arri, Canon, Panavision, Zeiss, Technicolor and Sony, among others.