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The EnergaCamerimage cinematography fest, although moved online at the last moment owing to Poland’s new listing on Europe’s red zone of high COVID-19 infection rates, remains committed to honoring the finest in lensing from around the world, says Kazik Suwala, the org’s festival office director.

“From the program point of view, we actually are doing what we’ve been doing,” Suwala says. “We have the same competitions, we have some other special screenings, we have the retrospectives, the lifetime achievement awards.”

The Camerimage main competition includes festival favorites such as “Ammonite,” “Falling” (pictured), “Never Gonna Snow Again,” “Nomadland” and “Charlatan.” The event runs Nov. 14-20.

The full conversion of the fest was a huge feat, but unavoidable in that the new public health and travel rules change daily in this part of Europe. The changes have meant an adjustment in scale to the $3 million-budget event, Suwala says. “The last couple of years we had 220-250 films, including music videos, student films, shorts. This year we will end up with about 180.” But in terms of overall program and competitions, things should roll out much as they have over the fest’s 28-year history.

Even before committing to an online-only format – something Camerimage tried in earnest to resist because of its commitment to the physical cinema – international travel restrictions were making things complicated. Suwala and his team had lots of travel commitments agreed, he says, with “a lot of correspondence between us and international guests.” But most have now agreed to do streaming talks that will remain online for days, making them more accessible than if they’d been in a physical hall.

The fest’s online platform is shaping up into a robust operation, he adds, “to connect the screenings, live streams of talks and question and answer [sessions], and we’ll keep up our market for the exhibitors.” This last element, a Camerimage specialty, is normally where filmmakers can get their hands on the latest mini Arri, Red camera, Sony gear, shooting and lighting tools and meet the manufacturers in an area of the Jordanki festival center that looks like a cinematographer’s preview of heaven.

“We are working on a pretty advanced model of the festival center,” Suwala says. “You will be able to go and have a 3D walk through the market. Hopefully you can play with a 3D camera model. We’ve chosen a very advanced technology.”

Festival sections and sidebars have had to be slimmed a bit as well, with last year’s total of more than 20 this time down to 13. The usual issue of digital rights management has meant that not all competition films will be available online.

“We won’t be allowed to stream all the content we have. The deals with distributors, producers, international connections, all of it makes showing films online harder.”

The content that is streamed will be most often available only in Poland, he adds, to conform with online territory deals.

“Actually, each film has a different strategy. It’s totally new puzzles that we’ve never dealt with [before].”

The crash course in streaming management will have benefits for future editions of Camerimage, though.

“My feeling is we will do the festival the same way we did before with physical screenings and a real-world market,” Suwala says. “But for sure we will stay online as well somehow, for people who can’t come so we can show them something from the festival.”

A heightened online presence is no bad thing, he adds. “I don’t think the aim is to move to the internet. But for sure it will be another tool to develop.”

As for the argument many fests in a similar predicament make — that more viewers will now be able to access their content — Suwala is less convinced. “I’m not sure we can say so because when you finally get permission to show the film online you usually have a limit on the number of views.”