Camerimage 2014 Wrap

thefilmbook by Benjamin B

Camerimage, the best and biggest cinematography festival in the world, wrapped 6 days ago.

It's impossible to see everything at Camerimage. This post gives an account of the Main Competition winners, and details some of the events that I took part in.

You should also check out the upcoming ASC podcast by Iain Marcks and ASC Parallax View blog post by David Heuring to get more details about this complex event.

3 Frogs at Camerimage 2014

André Turpin, Mikhail Krichman, Ehab Assal & their frogs - photo: Camerimage


3 frogs

The Camerimage award is a lifesize frog statue. In the Main Competition for feature films, the jury awarded gold, silver and bronze frogs to Russian, Palestinian and French-Canadian cinematographers.

Mikhael Krichman for LEVIATHAN by Andrey Zvyagintsev.

Leviathan lives up to its name. It's an epic tapestry of a movie, as rich as a Russian novel. Leviathan recounts the story of one man's fight to save his house from a corrupt mayor who wants to level it, and unfolds as a personal tragedy inspired by the book of Job. Leviathan was shot in 35mm film with an Arricam and Zeiss Master Primes.

- I have known Mikhael for several years, and followed his collaboration with Andrey Zvyagintsev. Mikhael has shot all 4 of Andrei's features, and they have made the most powerful Russian films of the past decade. I had the opportunity to speak with Mikhael about the poetic naturalism of Leviathan at Cannes and in Bydgoszcz. I hope to publish video and texts about this important film.

Ehab Assal for OMAR by Hany Abu-Assad

Omar is a film set in the West Bank, a tale of love and betrayal following a Palestinian who tries to outsmart his Israeli intelligence handler. Omar was shot on location with an Alexa in ProRes with Zeiss Ultra Primes.

-- I did get a chance to speak with Ehab briefly, and I hope that we will continue the discussion now that I've seen the movie, which is elegantly lit and beautifully composed.

André Turpin for MOMMY by Xavier Dolan.

Mommy is an innovative film directed by the 25-year-old French-Canadian prodigy, who shared the Jury prize at Cannes with Jean-Luc Godard. Mommy follows the attempts of a vivacious French-Canadian mother to cope with her troubled, hyperactive adolescent son, with the help of a reserved school-teacher neighbor. Mommy was shot on 35mm film, with Arricams and Zeiss Master Primes. The film is distinguished by its unique 1:1 square aspect ratio.

-- I shot a lengthy interview with André during the festival. My article about this striking, innovative film will appear in the February issue of the American Cinematographer. I will also publish February posts featuring my extended interviews with André Turpin and Xavier Dolan.

I am struck by the fact that 2 of the 3 winning features were shot with 35mm film, and one with Alexa ProRes. 35mm Negative is alive and kicking! I was also happy to see a sizable Russian contingent at this year's festival, including Roman Vasyanov, who shot another 35mm film in the Main Competition, Fury by David Ayer.


prince of brightness

This was a very busy Camerimage for me, as I organized and moderated 4 separate Seminars, including 2 events for my friends at Panavision, notably:


Caleb was the recipient of Camerimage's prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award, so it was only fitting to organize a Master Class with him. We highlighted Caleb's illustrious career with a series of film clips from Black Stallion, Being There, The Right Stuff, The Natural, Fly Away Home and The Passion of the Christ. The venue was packed with an enthusiastic crowd, with overflow seating on the floor and in the aisles.

caleb deschanel research -thefilmbook-

My Blu-Ray collection for Caleb's Master Class

Caleb and I spent many hours selecting and discussing his work on the seven films he selected to excerpt. It was a wonderful experience for me to delve into his filmmaking approach.

-- As I mentioned during the Seminar, I now consider Caleb "the prince of brightness", because of the recurring motif of powerful highlights in his work. During our preparation he told me: "there's no greater light than a well-used hard light". I grew to appreciate his frequent use of strong hard light, as a key, or an accent, to underline the emotion of a scene. Caleb's propensity for brightness is exemplified by the memorable finale of The Natural, where he literally rains light on the characters to create an epic moment.

The Natural finale- cinematography by Caleb Deschanel-


emerging cinematographers

My other Seminar for Panavision was:



5 Emerging Cinematographers -thefilmbook-

Chayse, Monika, David, Magdalena, PJ - photo: Benjamin B

When preparing this seminar, Hugh Whittaker and I decided to give the stage to upcoming cinematographers, as opposed to accomplished masters. I asked each DP to select cinematographers and films that influenced them, and to show excerpts from their own work as well. I'm especially proud that our panel included 2 women cinematographers, both from Poland. The DPs were:

-- PJ Dillon - Based in Dublin, he has been working mostly in television series. His credits include an episode of Game of Thrones, a feature with Nicole Kidman called Strangerland, and two seasons of Vikings. He showed us excerpts from Vikings.

Update: Strangerland has been selected for the Sundance World Dramatic Competition

-- Magdalena Gorka, PSC - Born in Poland and based in Los Angeles for the past 10 years, she has worked on 16 features (including 2nd unit)! She showed an excerpt from a thriller in the Polish Competition titled Jack Strong, and a dreamy Turkish car commercial. Magdalena does car commercials all over the world and dreams of shooting a James Bond.

-- Chayse Irvin - Born in Canada, and based in Los Angeles for the past 6 years, he won the Debut Cinematography award at Camerimage for Medeas, one of 5 features he has shot. He showed a music video and a trailer for Medeas.

-- Monika Lenczewska - Born in Poland, based in LA for 10 years, she has shot 4 features, including Difret in the Cinematographer Debut competition. Monika took a day off from her fifth film, in production in Greece, to attend the Seminar. She commented frame grabs from Difret.

Update: Difret is Ethiopia's submission for the Oscar for Best Foreign film

-- David Procter - Based in London, he has shot 2 features which both premiered at the Venice Film Festival. He showed an excerpt from Bypass which was in the Cinematographer Debut competition. David shoots many commercials and showed one he did for Bailey's.

-- It's striking once again that 2 of the 5 DPs had shot a feature on 35mm, in low-cost wide-screen 2-Perf ! Sergio Leone would be proud. Also it's interesting to see that 4 of the DPs shoot both commercials and features. Finally it was wonderful to hear them speak about cinematographers who inspired them, like PJ speaking about Vilmos Zigmond, or Chayse about Nestor Almendros.


a very funny panel

I organized 2 other Seminars during Camerimage:


I spoke with Marc Galerne of K5600 Lighting about doing a sequel to the very popular DPs and Gaffers event we did together 2 years ago. We decided to focus once again on the practical realities of the set, but this time with a wider range of crew members:

Cinematographers Matthew Libatique, ASC, and Dick Pope, BSC, Gaffer Helmut Prein, Steadicam Operator Thomas English, DIT Peter Marsden & 1st AC John Bailie.

The Image Crew Seminar - photo by Natalia Mentkowska-

One of the moments of levity during The Image Crew Seminar: Matthew Libatique, Dick Pope, Thomas English & Helmut Prein (not pictured are Peter Marsden & John Bailie) - photo by Natalia Mentkowska

-- This was one of the funniest panels I've ever done, mostly because of Dick's humor and Matthew's dry wit, but everyone joined in. Looking back I realize that the humor came also from the total honesty of all the panelists as they detailed the sometimes surreal conditions of today's productions, which sometimes combine unreasonable frenzy and monumental waste. This attitude was summed up by a story told of one director who, when asked if they should do a rehearsal of a completely unprepared scene, answered famously: "Fuck it, let's roll".

This Seminar was sponsored by K5600 Lighting, with help from Jacques Delacoux of Transvideo, and I will post a video of it in the coming months.


tribute to Gordy

Last but not least, was an event presented by American Cinematographer:


This Seminar came together late, when I received the Camerimage schedule and realized that there was no event honoring the recently departed cinematographer. I immediately called my friend and colleague, Stephen Pizzello, and asked him if he would participate in a Tribute. Steve is the American Cinematographer publisher and editor-in-chief, and has recently completed an upcoming book on Gordon Willis. I then called Kazik Suwala, a key organizer of Camerimage, who graciously fit this last-minute event into his very busy schedule.

Gordon Willis Tribute - Camerimage 2014 -thefilmbook-

Steve and I spent a couple of days selecting clips and preparing the event, and recruited ASC cinematographers Caleb Deschanel, Ed Lachman, Matthew Libatique and Vilmos Zsigmond who kindly agreed to comment on the work of their legendary colleague. We had a full house, and the event was very well received.

-- We showed clips from Klute, The Parallax View, The Godfather I, The Godfather II, Annie Hall and Manhattan. One thing everyone agreed on, Gordy did not like being called "the prince of darkness", for him it was a matter of naturalism and precise exposure.

I came away with a renewed appreciation of Gordon Willis' unique mixture of methodical rigor and pioneering poetry. I will return to this event in a future post.

Klute - night market scene - DP Gordon Willis -thefilmbook-

Klute - the night market scene - anamorphic cinematography by Gordon Willis


Like the Panavision Seminars, these 2 seminars are the result of teamwork, and I would like to say thank you to the following people for their help making them happen:

The Image Crew - Julien Bernard, Angéline Decaen, Ben Everett, Ed & Jade Thomas, Piotr in the booth & Dariusz Wyczolkowski

Tribute to Gordon Willis - Adam Brown, Alicja Chajewska, Ben Everett, Blake McClure, Iain Marcks, Piotr from Torun, Raphael at Multikino, Ed Thomas, Jade Thomas, Kazik Suwala


AC colleagues at work

Obviously, there were a few dozen other seminars and workshops at Camerimage, and unfortunately I did not have time to attend them, but I would be remiss if I did not mention the events moderated by my American Cinematographer colleagues David Heuring and Iain Marcks:

-- Cinematography Art & Technology moderated by Iain Marcks Steven Poster, ASC, Ed Lachman, ASC, Matthew Libatique, ASC, Nancy Schreiber, ASC.

Sponsored by Technicolor

-- Technology Meets Art moderated by David Heuring with cinematographers Michael Seresin, Oona Menges and Stijn Van Der Veken

Sponsored by Codex & CW Sonderoptic

-- Archival Materials in Storytelling moderated by Iain Marcks about the documentary Warsaw Uprising. Participants included cinematographer Piotr Sobocinski, Jr, co-writers/producers Michał Oldakowski and Piotr Śliwowski, Editor Joanna Bruehl, documentarian Michał Bukojemski and director Christian Frei

Presented by the Polish Society of Cinematographer

-- Advanced Filmmaking - David Heuring moderated a Q&A with Phedon Papamichael, ASC


good cheer

Camerimage is also about friendship and fun. This year I was too busy to enjoy many of the parties, but I did manage to dance at The One Club on the last night ! My photos this year reflect my limited evening activities. This collection features a few from last year, and other photos by my friends at the AFC. (You can use the right arrow on your keyboard to navigate the slideshow).


All photos by Benjamin B except when credited otherwise

Feel free to publish my photos on the web

as long as you give credit :

photos by Benjamin B -



Camerimage web site

Camerimage 2014 pdf schedule

Camerimage app

Mikhail Krichman's web site

Ehab Assal's web site

imdb: André Turpin

wikipedia: Caleb Deschanel

PJ Dillon's web site

Magdalena Gorka's web site

Chayse Irvin's web site

Monika Lenczewska's web site

David Procter's web site

thefilmbook: Camerimage 2013 Photo-journal

The Parallax View: Goldblatt Recalls Early Adventures for Canon Doc/

Marta Balaga: License to be Dark

Sylwester Rozmiarek's facebook album: Camerimage 2013 / behind the scenes lives up to its title.



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