CAMERIMAGE AS A PLATFORM FOR INTERNATIONAL PROMOTION
International film festivals, frequented by representatives of the entertainment industry and audiences looking for exhilarating audio-visual experience, have long played an important role not only in promoting the art of film itself, but also in supporting filmmakers and their projects. The importance of this influence cannot be overstated, particularly in today's world, where films are consumed on a massive scale and through a great abundance of media. Camerimage festival organizers have been well aware of this from the very beginning, striving to gradually develop a globally recognized brand synonymous with cinematic quality and uncompromising integrity.
From the very first edition, Camerimage selection committee members made sure to pick those pictures that were in the forefront of artistry, with particular emphasis on visual appeal. This approach, still upheld today, allows Camerimage to showcase works by both recognized auteurs and promising newcomers, providing festival participants with a unique cross-section of what is currently going on in cinemas worldwide. The choices made by the selection team and international jury members often resonate with the most prestigious industry events and award ceremonies.
This pattern was already confirmed by the two first festival Frogs. "The Piano" (dir. Jane Campion, cin. Stuart Dryburgh) and "Farewell My Concubine" (dir. Chen Kaige, cin. Gu Changwei) awarded at Camerimage 1993 were among the Oscar® nominees in a number of categories, including Best Cinematography, just a few months later. In the end, Jane Campion’s picture took home three of those coveted statuettes that year. Both films collected a number of awards and nominations in Cannes as well, moving on to have a share in Golden Globes and BAFTAs too. If we were to take into account only the three Oscar® categories - Best Film, Best Foreign Language Film and Best Cinematography - it would turn out that the Camerimage Frog predicted six of those most desired awards in the world of cinema, with as many as twenty-four films awarded at Camerimage being later nominated for the Academy Award in one of these three categories. Camerimage Main Competition line-ups alone featured nearly thirty titles awarded with an Oscar® and more than sixty other competition entries were at least nominated for this prestigious statuette.
Camerimage Frog winning pictures are praised primarily for their masterful cinematography. The year 2008 saw the whole film world showing absolute unanimity when the Golden Frog for Anthony Dod Mantle predicted the Oscars® for Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Motion Picture of the Year and six other statuettes for "Slumdog Millionaire" by Danny Boyle. The same motion picture went on to triumph during the Golden Globe Awards, European Film Awards and BAFTAs. It seemed that history does indeed repeat itself, as two years earlier, Guillermo Navarro took the 2006 Golden Frog for his cinematography in "Pan's Labyrinth" helmed by Guillermo del Toro, only to add an Oscar® for the same achievement, that the Mexican cinematographer picked up during the 79th Academy Awards ceremony. Navarro’s 2007 contestants for the statuette included Dick Pope, nominated for his lensing work on "The Illusionist" by Neil Burger, who was previously awarded with Camerimage Silver Frog.
Camerimage winners nominated in the Oscar® Best Cinematography category also include "Road to Perdition" by Sam Mendes with cinematography by Conrad L. Hall (Golden Frog 2002) and "Gravity" by Alfonso Cuarón with cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki (3D Films Competition winner at Camerimage 2013). Considering that "Ida" (dir. Paweł Pawlikowski, cin. Łukasz Żal and Ryszard Lenczewski) and "Leviathan" (dir. Andrey Zvyagintsev, cin. Mikhail Krichman), the winners of the 21. and 22. edition of the festival, respectively, are now two nominees that will soon compete for an Academy Award, it is also worth mentioning other Camerimage winners that triumphed in the Best Foreign Language Film category, namely the films: "Character" (dir. Mike van Diem, cin. Rogier Stoffers) and "A Separation" (dir. Asghar Farhadi, cin. Mahmoud Kalari)
Although Camerimage is an international festival, the organizers have always rejoiced the news about Polish films making it big abroad, particularly about those which also triumphed in the race for Camerimage Frogs. The winner of the 1994 Silver Frog, Piotr Sobociński senior, was the first Polish Camerimage laureate nominated for the Academy Award in recognition of his artistic input in the "Three Colors: Red" by Krzysztof Kieślowski. Several years later, he was followed by Janusz Kamiński who, having two Oscars® already under his belt, added yet another Academy Award nomination (for his cinematography in "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly") to the 2007 Camerimage Golden Frog. In the same vein, Łukasz Żal and Ryszard Lenczewski, the 2013 Camerimage Main Competition winners, garnered Oscar® nominations for their cinematography in "Ida". Polish filmmakers make the festival organizers’ job easier, creating increasingly better films that ever more often end up in the Main Competition, with frequent Frog wins. In recent years, the gold went to Arthur Reinhart for his work on "Venice" by Jan Jakub Kolski and Jolanta Dylewska for her cinematography in "In Darkness" by Agnieszka Holland. In 2009, two Polish films made it to the podium: Krzysztof Ptak was awarded the Silver Frog for "The Dark House" by Wojciech Smarzowski, while Marcin Koszałka went home with the Bronze Frog for "The Reverse" by Borys Lankosz. In 2014, the Camerimage Main Competition line-up featured a total of three Polish productions, including "Gods" by Łukasz Palkowski.
The competition films and winners of Camerimage film festival include more than just the frontrunners of the Oscar® race and laureates of the Golden Globe Awards, European Film Awards or Cannes, Venice and Berlin honours. There are also those motion pictures whose visual artistry earned deep appreciation of the professional cinematography community that Camerimage is so keen to foster. One of the most prestigious awards available to cinematographers is the annual recognition bestowed by the American Society of Cinematographers, ASC. Its British counterpart, the BSC, has its own award ceremony as well. The verdicts of both ASC and BSC award committees have often coincided with the opinions of the Camerimage jury and selection team members. Among the winners of the American Society of Cinematographers Awards were Stuart Dryburgh for "The Piano", Conrad L. Hall for "Road to Perdition" and Roger Deakins for "The Shawshank Redemption" – all previously awarded at Camerimage. The British Society of Cinematographers Awards, on the other hand, paid tribute, among other directors of photography, to Russell Boyd for the film "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World" and Phedon Papamichael for "Nebraska" – with both titles previously screened as part of the Main Competition at Camerimage.
The continuous collaboration between Camerimage and cinematography associations also results in the presence of many prominent cinematographers occupying the most important positions in professional film industry organizations among the festival jury members and regular guests alike. The festival has had the pleasure of hosting five ASC chairmen, either as Lifetime Achievement Award laureates or members of jury: William A. Fraker, Owen Roizman, Victor Kemper, Steven Poster and Stephen Lighthill. Participation in the Camerimage festival allows the American film industry to see a number of productions that are not released in theatres overseas. It was here, at Camerimage, that the ASC members came up with an idea that led to the establishment of the ASC Spotlight Award aimed to recognize outstanding cinematography in features and documentaries that are typically screened at film festivals, in limited theatrical release, or outside the United States. The first-ever winners of this award were Łukasz Żal and Ryszard Lenczewski for their cinematography in "Ida".
Many prominent cinematographers affiliated with the ASC, BSC or other influential organizations, also belong to an elite group of members of the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). Every year, from the very first edition of Camerimage, the festival guests comprised both the Academy members, as well as the Academy Award winners. The celebrated Oscar® statuette went to a number of Camerimage Lifetime Achievement Award laureates, including Vilmos Zsigmond, Haskell Wexler, David Watkin, Vittorio Storaro, John Seale, Volker Schloendorff, Conrad L. Hall or Freddie Francis. Oscar® winners have repeatedly sat on the festival juries; the Academy Award winning cinematographers alone included such artists as John Toll, Ronnie Taylor, Wally Pfister, Chris Menges, Walter Lassally and Peter Biziou. Although focused primarily on rewarding and supporting cinematographers, Camerimage is a film festival readily visited by representatives of all film professions. Camerimage guests, and often laureates, included Oscar® winning editors - Jim Clark, Alan Heim, Pietro Scalia, Thelma Schoonmaker, Joel Cox and Martin Walsh; set designers - Stuart Craig, Dante Ferretti, John Myhre, Ferdinando Scarfiotti, Allan Starski and Rick Carter; directors - Michael Cimino, Joel Coen, Rob Epstein, Ang Lee, Steven Okazaki, Roman Polański, Terry Sanders, John Schlesinger, Oliver Stone and Andrzej Wajda; as well as actors, including Jeremy Irons and Charlize Theron.
The attendance of the Academy Award winners at the festival is about much more than just prestige. Being awarded by the Academy means that they often have a say in who is going to be nominated in the following years. Combine that with the fact that every year the festival jury members, panellists and nominees include a number of other distinguished members of the Academy, and it is easy to see that Camerimage, taking place just a few months prior to the Oscars® ceremony, is an excellent forum for the exchange of ideas, views and opinions in this most exciting period for the film world. In 1994, the festival was honoured by a visit from the then President of AMPAS, Arthur Hiller, director of the legendary "Love Story," who accepted a medal in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the development of Camerimage film festival.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has recently honoured Camerimage by appointing it one of the Academy Award qualifying festivals in the Documentary Short Subject category. This means that the winners of the Golden Frog in Short Documentary Films Competition at Camerimage will qualify for consideration in the Documentary Short Subject category of the annual Academy Awards® without the standard theatrical run, provided the film otherwise complies with the Academy rules. The non-fiction section at Camerimage was launched in 2008. Two of this year's Oscar® nominated short documentary films competed for the Camerimage Golden Frog in 2013 - "Joanna" directed by Aneta Kopacz and shot by Łukasz Żal (this is the second Academy Award nomination for this young cinematographer) and "The Reaper" by the Mexican duo Gabriel Serra and Carlos Correa.
The international mix of Camerimage guests, composed of industry professionals and members of the Academy, leading associations and biggest festival selection committees, is accompanied every year by enthusiastic crowds of film school students coming from all over the world, cinephiles, film critics, representatives of the scientific community and, what is of critical importance not only to the promotion of Camerimage itself but also to presenting Poland as a thriving centre of world cinema, the very top of film industry journalists. The festival has so far welcomed, among other media outlets, the representatives of film magazines and websites from Germany (Film & TV Kameramann), Russia (Mediavision), the UK (Sight & Sound, MovieScope, HungryEye, Screen International and Empire Magazine) and the US (The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Filmmaker Magazine, MovieMaker Magazine, ComingSoon.net). Todd McCarthy, the legendary American film critic, was a member of the 2013 Main Competition jury. During the 2014 edition of Camerimage, a group of journalists from the prestigious Variety magazine released e-dailies covering festival events and winners. This extensive coverage format has previously been used only at the biggest film events in Berlin, Venice, Cannes and Toronto.
Every year, the festival welcomes more and more foreign journalists who, like the film industry members, commend Camerimage for its one-of-a-kind atmosphere of cinematic celebrations that replace the restrained grandeur of red carpets with open dialogue and direct experience. This attention brings the festival into media spotlight, both in the press and online. The growing recognition for Camerimage as a festival highlighting what is good and interesting in cinema resulted in the film world's biggest website, IMDb.com regularly updating the awards handed out in Poland, including not only feature films and documentaries, but also the nominees and winners of the Music Videos Competition, a Camerimage section enjoying great success since its launch in 2008. It is worth pointing out that only those music videos that were screened during Camerimage earned this recognition from IMDb.com.
For the past six years, with the last two in collaboration with the American Film Institute and the American Society of Cinematographers, the organizers of the festival visit the heart of Hollywood with their Camerimage Winners Show, a three-day event in Los Angeles showcasing the winning productions from the previous edition of the Camerimage film festival. This presentation enables them to reach those industry representatives and friends of the festival who were not able to come to Poland. The event itself is yet another excellent opportunity to confirm the quality and reputation of the festival as a platform for international promotion of valuable films, but also a great place for networking and exchanging views on the latest news in the world of cinema. Camerimage Winners Show became an excellent opportunity, seized eagerly by the Camerimage organizers every year, to build an expanding international network of connections which will allow many films that start their journey in Poland to get the much-desired worldwide exposure and festival circuit traction.