Camerimage, the international film festival celebrating the art of cinematography, is having its 25th anniversary this year. That’s a mark of no small importance. For 25 years now, it has been the place where cinematographers of any age, young and old alike, meet. It’s where I first met many of our colleagues — and it’s where I saw some of them for the last time. It’s where we aspire to show our work, and where we find inspiration in the accomplishments of our friends and fellow cinematographers.
From all over the world, we travel to Poland — first the festival was in Toru´n, then Lód´z, and now, since 2010, in Bydgoszcz. Whatever the city, the festival feels like a retreat, like some kind of resort. And, of course, it’s certainly a place where Poland’s national spirit, vodka, flows like water. (Even the Polish word for water, “woda,” looks suspiciously close to vodka.)
This “water” is quick to lift the festivalgoers into a state of euphoria. Every night, with senses softened by the spirits, our eyes are opened to another great discovery. Seldom are we cinematographers afforded such a chance to indulge in these sometimes esoteric discussions of aesthetics. On set, we are expected to remain levelheaded and certain of our directions. We are expected to be anchors.
Not so at Camerimage. There, we are free to be moved by the cresting waves of creativity. The atmosphere itself is intoxicating. And it is unique.
The work shown at Camerimage — hailing from around the globe, from students and professionals, from music videos and features — is beautiful and innovative. More than once, the festival’s highlights have gone on to garner major awards and worldwide recognition.
Camerimage has grown considerably in its first quarter century. The technical community has embraced it as an ideal showcase for the latest equipment. Agents make a point to attend, frequently meeting new and upcoming talent. And the festival itself has expanded its focus to honor the crafts that work closely alongside cinematographers, including editing and production design. All in all, Camerimage has done tremendous work to raise awareness of cinematography and cinematographers the world over.
At this year’s festival, the ASC will have a joint still-photography exhibit with Imago, the European Federation of Cinematographers, as well as various forums presented as part of our two groups’ joint efforts. To me, this is a sure sign of artistic collaboration, and one that could find no better platform than at Camerimage.
It is also wonderful to see the festival salute John Toll, ASC with this year’s Camerimage Lifetime Achievement Award. John follows a long and distinguished line of ASC members who have received this honor, including Owen Roizman, Vilmos Zsigmond and Michael Chapman, to mention only a few.
This November, the very fabric of cinematography will gather once again in a small town in Poland for a weeklong celebration of our art and craft. Over the years that I’ve attended, I’ve made fond memories and formed lasting friendships. For this and so much more, I raise my glass of vodka in congratulations to this remarkable event, and to honorary ASC member Marek Zydowicz and his team of festival organizers.
I sincerely hope these first 25 years are exactly that: the first, with many, many more to come.
Kees van Oostrum