10.4185/RLCS-2018-1272en | ISSN 1138 - 5820 | RLCS, 73-2018 | |
Camerimage, the uniqueness of a festival devoted to the art of cinematography
Translation of paper by Yuhanny Henares
1. Introduction and state of the art of film festivals
In the last decades a large number of festivals, of different types and formats have proliferated, all those dedicated to cinema, causing an increased interest by the scientific community which reflects about the phenomenon from different fields and perspectives. Academic production regarding cinematography festivals has increased, especially since the nineties.
The most prolific literature about film festivals is Anglo-Saxon, specially from the year 2009, and there are reference studies for all researcher interested in the reflection about the festivals phenomena. Among the seminal academic studies the work of Nichols (1994) outstands, where the author reflects about the global and local Dynamic prevailing in film festivals.
The most recent is the work of generalistic cut of Turan (2002) and Stringer (2003), both complementary studies, because the first one offers a general retrospective of the world of festivals and, the second, complete the theoretical background of the former.
Elsaesser (2005) and Harbord (2002) adopt a space-time perspective of festivals. Taking the European cinema as reference, Elsaesser (2005) introduces us in their complexity and exposes the relevant role they play in the constitution of cinema. On his part, Harbord (2002) offers a point of view of festivals as mediatic events.
With an historic-theoretical approach, De Valck (2007) offers the keys about the performance and achievements of classical film festivals –Berlin, Cannes and Venice– and tries to explain the causes for their proliferation.
Porton (2009) suggest a panoramic view of the world of film festivals, with contributions of theorists such as Bazin, but also programmers and cinematographic critics. On his part, Wong (2011) offers a study case focused in the film festival of Hong Kong and exposes historical, structural and practical issues, as well as critics and businesses around them.
With the publication of the anthology Film Festival Yearbook by Iordanova and Rhyne (2009), the relevance of festivals as alternative to the traditional chain of film distribution was evidenced. This study also represents a change that transfers interest from the traditional Venice-Cannes-Berlin axis, to draw attention towards other latitudes.
Iordanova and Cheung (2010) gather the second delivery of this collection, articles that show the role of international film industry as mediator for the creation of transnational communities, with texts about festivals’ cultural policies and funding models, as well as analysis of programing practices linked to these usually politized events.
The third volume of this collection (Iordanova and Cheung, 2011) is focused on East Asian festivals (Hong Kong, Pusan, Tokyo or Shangai), of great relevance for the global cinematographic distribution.
The fourth edition (Iordanova and Leshu, 2012) highlights the relevance of festivals as platforms for promoting change and social justice. By joining together perspectives of scholars, programmers and activists, this work offers an essential approach towards the nature, function and practice of film festivals with activist vocation.
Marlow-Mann (2013) specializes, in the fifth edition of this collection, in festivals dedicated to the representation of the cinematographic past, and include retrospectives, repositions and restorations.
In the sixth edition, Iordanova and Van de Peer (2014) reveal the history and politics of film festivals located in the Middle East and North of Africa. Besides the programming, the audience and event organization, this collection of papers investigate the film circuit, the impact of festivals and the representations of the inhabitants of that area, their culture and language in the cinematographic screen.
The Film Festival Reader (Iordanova, 2013) is an anthology that gathers some of the texts of greater relevance about film festivals. There, some questions are answered about its importance in the film culture and about the prevailing logic. Also, the debate about its main features, its role as tool of power and prestige, with its capacity to build or destroy the destiny of a film, and with the main agents interested that there is an adequate development.
Finally, Film Festivals: History, Theory, Method, Practice (De Valck, Kredell & Loist, 2016) is a compilation of papers of researchers of international prestige, that manages historical, theoretical, methodological and practical aspects of European, North-American and Asian film festivals, without forgetting about other minor events happening around the world.
The interest in the field of festivals is reflected in the numerous special editions of academic publications of impact such as Film International (2008, vol. 6, nº 4); Screen (2011, vol. 52, nº 2); or New Review of Film and Television Studies (2016, vol. 14, nº 1).
In the Spanish context, the scientific production regarding film festivals is led by Jurado-Martín (2003 and 2014), focused in Spanish film festivals. The author advocates in her dissertation the role of cinematography contests as launching platform for new directors. Jurado-Martín (2004) also dedicates one her studies to evidence the role that the Valencian film festival, La Mostra de Valencia. Cinema del Mediterrani, plays in the landscape of Spanish film festivals.
On her part, Vallejo-Vallejo (2012 and 2014) analyses from an anthropological perspective, the functioning of the documentary film festivals circuit in Europe’s Middle East, emphasizing on its international dimension. The author analyses social, economic and cultural interactions weaving among the different events of the last twenty years. Vallejo-Vallejo and Peirano (2017) recently published a work about the intersection of film festivals and anthropology.
Despise the enormous academic production about film festivals, there is a lack of reflections about those specializing in cinematography. In this sense, there outstands the approach to the history of the festival performed by Heuring (2012), as well as the material that the festival itself publishes in its website or books edited about award-winners for their professional career (Lifetime Achievement Award). The scarce scientific production about festivals specialized in cinematography raises highlights the interest and novelty of the research exposed herein.
1.1. Cinematography festival definition
Cinematography is defined as a form of communication and an art integrated in the cinematographic production (either in the form of a feature film, documentary, short film, videoclip or advertising spots) which main purpose is to visually support narration. Thus, the main media of expression at the disposal of the cinematographer are illumination, color and possibilities offered by the camera like composition and its movement (Cortés-Selva, 2014:144-145).
Jurado-Martín (2003: 50) defines film festival as follows:
In the environment of film festivals specialized in photography it is necessary to stablish a distinction between ‘awards’ and ‘festivals’. Amon the former there are those that, among the totality of awards granted, they have a category dedicated to cinematography. This is the case of Oscar awards from the Hollywood Film Academy or Goya awards from Spanish films. On the other hand, there are awards specialized in cinematography like those of the association of cinematographers like the United States’ American Society of Cinematographers, or its peers at international level.
The scarce festivals dedicated to cinematography are located in Europe, and among them there are national ones such as Kamera Oko (Film Festival Ostrava Kamera Oko) held in the city of Popovo (Bulgaria), and international ones such as Manaki Brothers in the Macedonian city of (International Cinematographers´ Film Festival Manaki Brothers); the already extinct Madridimagen, held in Madrid (Spain); and the international festival Camerimage, held in different Polish cities.
2. Objectives and methodology
This research uses a methodological triangulation that includes both qualitative and quantitative techniques.
One of the main objectives of the research is focused on discovering the festival’s strategy to potentiate cinematography, therefore we used a qualitative analysis based on creators, cinematographic films and audience. Said analysis is done by combining participant observation through the attendance to the festival, as well as through the analysis of its programming and documents published therein.
The second objective is focused on knowing the photography styles promoted by the festival through its history, therefore a content analysis is performed, including awarded feature films from the start of the festival until 2016. We analyze the origin of the film (national and continental), the genre it belongs to (drama, comedy, terror, etc.), the time period narrated and the typically photography characteristics present therein (Cortés-Selva, 2014a).
The third objective consists of an analysis of the repercussion of the festival in the career of cinematographers that have received the highest award, from its beginnings in 1993 until the year 2016. Therefore, we have reviewed the production made by said cinematographers in the database imdb (internet movie database), before and after the award.
3. Camerimage: strategies for promoting cinematography photography
Organized by the Tumult Foundation, the origins of the Camerimage festival date back to the year 1993, when in the Polish city of Torun, a small group of cinephiles with a strong appreciation for visual arts decided to invite two members of the American Society of Cinematographers: Sven Nykvist and Vittorio Storaro. The acceptance of these two great cinematographers as patrons of the festival represented the starting point of the event.
With an annual regularity, the festival extends approximately for a week coinciding usually with the last two weeks of November. For the last twenty-four years, it has changed location three times. It was held since 1993 to 1999 in Torun; it moves to Łódź until the year 2009 and, since 2010 it is celebrated in the city of Bydgoszcz.
Th eco-founders of the festival –Kazimierz Partuki and Marek Zydowicz, current director– remind about the origins of the festival and describe it as ‘staging an opera in the middle of a desert’ (Heuring, 2012). The fact that the fist location where Camerimage was held (Torun) was distanced or at least of difficult access, conveyed the feeling that the people attending had a real interest in the art of cinematography.
The institutions that support the festival are of public and private ownership, of European, national and local nature. Among private institutions there are the Tumult Foundation, an organization dedicated to promote Arts which presence in the history of the festival dates back to its origins. Other institutions supporting the festival are the Local Government of the City of Bydgoszcz, the Ministry of Culture and the Culture Institute, both Polish. From the European Union the festival receives support from European funding, such as Europa Creativa.
Camerimage also has a nourished number of sponsors that increases in numbers and reputation when the festival undergoes the metamorphosis from a local to an international event. Among them, there is the Polish mobile phone company Plus, which sponsors the festival from the year 2007 to 2012, granting it the name Plus Camerimage.
Its main awards –the golden, silver and bronze frog– are inspired in a local version of the fable of the Pied Piper, where a violinist saves the city from a plague of frogs (Heuring, 2012).
3.1. Camerimage and the creators of the cinematic images.
Evans (2007), through its theoretical model, influences in the relevance of the European festival as a place of cultural exchange between the Hollywood production and the rest of the world’s. In fact, the promotion of the international and national culture is another one of the festival’s purposes. In each edition, since the year 1994, the festival programs art expositions with collections that have not been exhibited yet in other halls. Among them, the attendants have the opportunity of seeing a selection of lithographs of artists like David Lynch, photographs made by the director Mike Figgis or more recently, Bob Dylan’s drawing, paintings and sculptures.
Camerimage acts as platform for the international promotion of the Polish culture through alternative channels of cinematographic distribution (Iordanova and Rhyne, 2009), through the display of the best films from the photographic perspective and awarding its creators with the Polish Competition Films.
One of the main features that define the festival is the support offered to cinematographers: consolidated, new and students. Among the former, at international level there is the Main Competition, that works as platform for the display of their work. On the other hand, these consolidated cinematographers are also invited to offer lectures and master classes, they are granted an award for their career and offered the opportunity to show further artistic productions.
Regarding novice cinematographers and students, as developed below, Camerimage offers today several alternatives for its promotion. Two competitions, debuting feature films or Feature Debuts Competition, and the Student Etudes Competition. Besides, the festival programs since 2015 a Talent Demo activity specially conceived for students of Cinema Schools, Communication or Fine Arts, as well as for independent makers. It aims to offer the unique opportunity to selected participants or showing their projects and receive advice from experts of the prestige of cinematographers such as John Seale or Oliver Stapleton; from directors such as Michael Hoffman or Michael Apted; as well as producers, editors or creative agents.
3.1.a. Support to other cinema industry creators
Camerimage is characterized for manifesting the work of other authors related to cinematographic production that receive scarce attention in other festivals. Among them, artistic directors, costumes designers, film editors, actors or producers, all those creators that, through their work, demonstrate a special sensitivity towards the visual aspect of films. The festival underlines the effort of these professionals by granting special awards (Camerimage Special Awards), as shown on Table 1. The white spaces in this table and the absent years indicate the non-existence of a special award in this category, for that moment.
Table 1. Special awards granted to artists with a special visual sensitivity
Source: Authors’ own creation
3.1.b. Promotion of continuous training.
One of the main objectives of the festival is focused on continuous training, both from consolidated cinematographers as well as future talents, cinema or audiovisual students. Therefore, Camerimage offers numerous activities: workshops, seminars and master classes taught by professionals and acclaimed artists.
Among the seminars offered there are the ones dedicated to illumination, cinematographic supports, cinematography, actors or art direction, among others. All those usually developed in decorations created for that purpose by festival sponsors, that include companies such as ARRI, Avid, Aaton, Angenieux, Apple or Canon.
3.2. Camerimage and audiovisual productions
Camerimageacknowledges the value of visual arts of different audiovisual formats such as fiction feature films, short films, documentaries, advertising spots, music videos and television series like shown in the categories exposed as follows.
3.2.a. Main competition
The Main Competition is the most important part of the festival. It is an event of international nature that exists since the first edition in the year 1993. Its main objective is selecting and awarding those movies where the image contributes in a significant manner to the narration. The visual value of these films is the result of the cooperation between the director and the cinematographer, although the competition emphasizes about the huge contribution of the later to the cinematographic product. The selected films that participate in this competition are exhibited through the development of the festival. An international jury is responsible for selecting and awarding the three films with the best cinematography, constituting the main awards in order of relevance: the golden, silver and bronze frog.
3.2.b. Polish competition
Although it starts on the year 2005 as a shy attempt (Polish Film Review), the Polish Competition starts in 2006. Its main purpose is to demonstrate photographic excellence of Polish feature films before an international jury and audience. It entails a way of promotion and a unique opportunity so that Polish creators face their creations with critics and artists acclaimed internationally, as well as the possibility to be part of international productions.
3.2.c. Students competition
Students competition or Student Film Festival starts in 1997, and in the year 2002 it changes its name to Student Competition Awards, and finally in 2003, it acquires the current name of Student Etudes Competition. Its main goal is to support future cinematographers in their students phase.
A jury of international relevance comprised by creators and professionals of the cinematography industry, selects the best productions exhibited in the festival program, offering the opportunity to compare their work with that of students coming from other education centers at international level. The winners of this competition receive a first prize (golden tadpole), a second prize (silver tadpole) and a third prize (bronze tadpole).
3.2.d. Documentary Films
The documentary films competition called: Image of the world–World in images is an international event which main objective is to acknowledge the visual art present in documentaries. There are two categories: feature film of duration superior to 40 minutes (Documentary Feature competition) and documentary short films of a duration inferior to 40 minutes (Documentary Shorts Competition). The jury (different for each category) awards cinematographers which nonfiction productions outstand by their visual and aesthetic excellence, granting a main prize (golden frog) and a special mention with the granting of a statuette.
3.2.e. Feature debut
Its seed initiates on the year 2006 under the name of European Debuts Competition, and since 2010, it gets the name of Feature Debuts Competition. It is divided into two competitions: Directors´ Debuts Competition and Cinematographers´ Debuts Competition. The main objective of these categories is to introduce new discoveries, first productions or second films of emerging artists that surprise by their high artistic value. The films are evaluated by an international jury that selects and awards the best directors and cinematographers of this category.
3.2.f. Music videos
The competition dedicated to music videos, the Music Video Competition, is an international event that aims to acknowledge the artistic value of music videos, formats with wide possibilities of innovation and audiovisual experience. Among them, there outstand the contributions of authors such as Daniel Pearl or Anton Corbijn, audiovisual productions considered pieces of the cinematography art. The best achievements in this category are evaluated by a jury paying special attention to the visual and aesthetic values of the image. The director of the festival invites a group of experts of the musical and film industry to evaluate and nominate videos that will be part of the competition. The productions selected to enter the competition are displayed as part of the festival program. The international jury grants two awards: the best music video, granting a statuette to its director. And an award to the best photography of a music video, the cinematographer responsible of its authorship.
3.2.g. Television series
TV pilots competition “First Look” opens on the year 2015 and aims to evidence the photographic quality of television series. Therefore, it dedicates an award to the series pilot-chapters, those first products that define the visual style, the prevailing photography of the totality of the series.
This award represents an opportunity for the television industry to display its production before an international jury and audience. In its first edition, it grants the award to two Spanish creators: the cinema director Juan Antonio Bayona and the cinematographer Xavi Giménez, for his work in the chapter titled Night work from the Penny Dreadful series. In 2016, the pilot chapter of the series The night of: The Beach is awarded, photographed by Robert Elswit and directed by Steven Zaillian.
3.2.h. Advertising spots
Camerimage awards artistic excellence of other audiovisual formats such as advertisement spots, with the special category dedicated to them: Advertising Spots Competition-European Funds in Focus, which starts in the year 2006 as Special Awards and acquires in 2013 its current name.
3.2.i. Other audiovisual formats
Camerimage is characterized by promoting the introduction and the development of technologies that favor the artistic quality of the cinematographic image. The festival was pioneer in the use of 16 mm., 35 mm., digital and stereoscopic cinematography in the past, novelties of great relevance for the process of visual aesthetics. It also has investigated the relevance of the image captured with mobile phones, creating a specific category called Nokia Competition, present from the year 2006 until 2008 (both included).
With the initial intention of stablishing a dialog about how the tridimensional cinema can enrich the visual narrative and aesthetics, the festival introduces in the year 2013 a category focused in tridimensional films, 3D films competition. However, the last edition of this category occurred on the year 2015.
3.3. Camerimage and audiences
In the second edition of Camerimage on the year 1994, Heuring (2012) mentions the attendance of 60 cinematographers, cinematography creators, cinephiles and students. In contrast, on the year 2015, there attend approximately 600 cinematographers together with other 600 guests among which there are directors, actors, editors and art directors, around 700 students, 150 communication media representatives and approximately 400 representatives of the cinematography industry including producers, distributors and companies. These data indicate that Camerimage is a festival open to any kind of audience potentially interested in cinema, although the specificity of it makes that a high percentage of viewers is constituted by the cinematographers and the group of professionals involved in the creation of the cinematography image.
On the other hand, the fact that the celebration of the festival is not done in the capital of Polonia, but instead on places of more difficult access causes, using Heuring’s words (2012), that the festival attendants are really interested in cinematography photography. Despite being cities of lesser relevance than Warsaw, all those have in common, among other features, the fact of choosing large spaces for displaying films. In Torun, the main hall has a capacity for 1000 individuals; the Grand Theatre of the city of Lodz has more than 1270 seats and the Opera Nova in Bydgoszcz, has 803. This feature turns the act of cinematography viewing into a communal experience (Papadimitriou and Ruoff, 2016: 4), a sort of ritual in the style of the old cinematographic palaces of the golden years of cinema favoring engagement.
The universality of the cinematographic language enables the union of its audience without distinguishing between countries or languages, which turns it into a potential community comprised by a core of followers interested in cinematography. Although in an incipient way, this community extends through networks such as Twitter, under the official account @CamerimageFest; or @MG_Camerimage, of the documentary section; or @PlusCamerimage, from the stage when the festival was sponsored by the company Plus. The festival is also present on social networks such as Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/camerimage/?fref=t) or Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/camerimage.festival), where there is report about the festivals’ day to day through the publication of news, photographs and videos.
4. Photographic trends promoted by Camerimage
The table 2 shows the totality of films that have obtained the highest award in the Camerimage festival, in the feature films category. Data about the cinematographer and its director were added. Next, we analyzed other aspects of the films such as nationality, genre they belong to, the time of narration (past, present or future), other awards they have received, the story and the photographic style that characterizes each one of them. Thus, we performed a double analysis: quantitative and qualitative as mentioned in the methodology section.
Table 2. Films and authors granted the highest award in the main competition
Source: Authors’ own creation
Data obtained after the contents analysis indicate that awarded films show very diverse photographic styles and therefore, there are no stylistic constants directly linked with the illumination design or camera. However, we have found some pattern that repeat in all of them. Awarded films share photographic proposal that is very thorough, where all the technical-expressive elements are controlled and nothing is left to chance, adapted to the narrative contents. In this sense, there outstands the great number of these films that have received other awards the same years, not linked to photography, but with the narrative contents. For instance, The piano receives three Oscar awards, one of them to the best original script; Secrets and lies, receives five Oscar nominations, among them the best film and original script; The diving bell and the butterfly gets four Oscar nominations where it outstands as the best direction and script adaptation; Slumdog Millionaire receives eight Oscar awards including best film, director and adapted script; In darkness, War Witch and Leviathan are nominated the best non English speaking film; Ida achieves the Oscar for the best non English speaking film; Carol receives six Oscar nominations including best photography, best main actress, best secondary actress, best adapted script, best costume and best original music; and Lion is nominated to Oscars as best film, best photography, best original music, best adapted film, best main actor and best main actress.
Besides, the winning feature films belong totally to the dramatic genre, leaving aside others such as comedy, terror or science fiction, as specified on graphic 1, the high presence of period films, with a wide treatment of different decades of the XX century, as well as centuries XVI, XVII and XIX.
Source: authors’ own creation.
Camerimage potentiates a type of photography where the high contrast and the low color saturation prevails which, in two occasions, with the films Ida and Woyzek, it even reaches black and white.
Source: authors’ own creation
However, graphic 3 shows a clear predominance of awards granted to European films, specifically of the Centre and Northern Europe and, secondly, of USA, which is a clear indicator of the festival’s promotional strategy.
5. Festival impact in cinematographers’ professional career
Regarding the repercussion of the festival in cinematographers’ career, Camerimage represents the display of productions of acclaimed international figures such as Conrad L. Hall, Edward Lachman, Janusz Kaminski, Remi Adefarasin, Anthony Dod Mantle, Piotr Sobocinski, Dick Pope, Stuart Dryburgh or Arthur Reinhart, but also less known cinematographers like Mikhail Krichman, Ryszard Lenczewski, Nicholas Bolduc, Jolanta Dylewska, Giora Bejach, Krzysztof Ptak, Gérard Simon, who have the opportunity to show their work therein.
Graphic 4 shows that the festival does not tend to grant the highest award to the same cinematographer, except for the British Dick Pope, who receives three awards in several editions of the festival, and the Polish Arthur Reinhart, who is awarded twice.
Although it is not possible to stablish a direct causality relationship, we notice, after the detailed study of the evolution of the career of cinematographers receiving the highest award in the featured film category that, as shown on graphic 5, 32% start participating in North-American productions and co-productions. Among them, Stuart Dryburg, Piotr Sobocinski, Dick Pope and Rogier Stoffers, Remi Adefarasin, Rodrigo Prieto and Anthony Dod Mantle. The contrary does not happen, that is, of cinematographers that work in the North-American industry and start working in other industries, although it is logical due to its superiority.
Source: authors’ own creation
The greatest collaborations produce among countries sharing the same language: Australia, UK, USA. In the Polish case, except for Piotr Sobocinski, no other cinematographer is successful in jumping to the United States’ industry.
Source: authors’ own creation
The previous graphics also reveal the null presence of Spanish photography among the festival’s most important awards, which would need an in-depth study to answer this situation.
Likewise, the practically absence of women among the festival’s most relevant awards that in this case, as shown on graphic 6, is reduced to 4%. This percentage belongs to the only award granted to the Polish cinematographer Jolanta Dylewska on the year 2011, by her work in In Darkness, conducted by Agnieszka Holland. It is a data that, although scarce, it can be considered positive, considering the rest of prizes and awards specialized in cinematography, such as the ones given by the American Society of Cinematographers or Hollywood Academy’s Oscar, the female presence is null.
Camerimage is a festival specialized in cinematography which main strategy is revealed through its program, which potentiates three main axes: creators of the cinematography image, audiovisual productions and audience. To potentiate cinematography, the festival’s philosophy advocates the display of the best productions from the photographic perspective; granting awards; offering continuous training activities; and the promotion of the contact between creators of different latitudes.
Regarding creators, and always considering the film director, its main concern is focused on cinematographers on three levels in their career evolution: students, new and consolidated, both nationally and internationally.
Besides, Camerimage is an excellent platform to give visibility to cinematography creators scarcely valued in other festivals, with a special visual sensitivity. Among them, artistic directors, film editors or producers, highlighting their condition of co-creators of the cinematographic work.
The second axis of the festival consists in evaluating the artistic quality of audiovisual productions which, in this case and different from other festivals, does not award the different categories of the cinematographic production by granting relevance to fiction feature films, but instead it focuses in a single discipline: cinematography, and potentiates it through the cinematographic display of different audiovisual productions (short films, feature films, fiction, non-fiction and television products such as series, advertisement spots or music videos), to which different awards are granted.
The audience –the third axis of the festival– attends to the different collective views programmed by the festival in large capacity cinemas, which promote the commitment of the audience with cinematography and the feeling of belonging to a collective of cinema lovers in general and photography in particular, building a Camerimage community.
The photographic trends potentiated by the festival through its history present a high hybridization of photographic styles, although they all share a very controlled and thorough planning, adapted to the story. It is a photographic style dominated by the dramatic genre, with an image of high contrast and scarce color saturation, which story focuses in past periods.
The purpose of the festival is to potentiate the best cinematographers coming mainly from the Centre and Northern Europe so that they can participate in the United State’s industry. In fact, the festival represents an impact in the career of this profile of male photographers.
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How to cite this article in bibliographies / References
L Cortés-Selva, M Jurado-Martín, L Ostrovskaya (2018): “European Jewels: Camerimage, the uniqueness of a festival devoted to the art of cinematography”. Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, 73, pp. 614 to 632.
Article received on 4 December 2017. Accepted on 4 March.