September 23rd, Bitola – We are informing you with great pleasure that the 38th edition of the International Cinematographers’ Film Festival “Manaki Brothers” started tonight with the traditional arrival of guests from home and abroad at the red carpet in front of the Cultural Centre in Bitola.

Two lifetime achievement awards “Golden Camera 300” were granted at the opening of the festival to two greats of world cinematography, Pierre Lhomme and Giuseppe Rotunno. The ceremony ended with a screening of the films “The End of Time” by Milcho Manchevski and “Directions” from the director Stefan Komandarev and cinematographer Veselin Hristov, the first film from the main selection.

The actor Sashko Kocev, who was also a host of the opening ceremony, called the director of the festival, Blagoja Kunovski – Dore, to address the public.

Kunovski greeting the present audience and thanked all the people involved in the organization of the festival, while also highlighting the enormous effort which the team regularly puts into the realization of the festival. 

– The festival is a result of the work of our team which with joint efforts, a lot of faith, enthusiasm, endurance and great responsibility is making possible the functioning of this festival. Before I was a director of the festival, I worked for a long time as an artistic director; the privilege of my generation was being a witness of the creation of the festival – almost forty years later we are being on the threshold of a four-decade festival jubilee – said Kunovski.

He also emphasized that any film festival, even in the smallest country, not just the festivals in Cannes or Venice, is a great event and an experience for every host country.

– We are proud that our festival “Manaki Brothers” is part of hundreds of film festivals that celebrate the true film art, said Kunovski.  

The audience in the Big Hall at the Cultural Centre reacted with a loud applause at the emotional speech of gratitude of this year’s first laureate of the Golden Camera 300 Lifetime Achievement Award, the famous Italian cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno, who wasn’t able to come to Bitola, but addressed the audience in Macedonia through a video-message: I am very grateful for this award, I thank the festival “Manaki Brothers” and your desire to give me an award, which gives me a great pleasure.  

The award for Rotunno, a cinematographer who is credited for over 80 films which defined the European cinematography, was received by his former student, now a cinematographer himself – Luca Coassin. He was honored by this opportunity and very pleased that the festival “Manaki Brothers” honored the work of this significant cinematographer. 

Coassin asked the audience in the room to applaud so he can film it and show the video to Rotunno.

The second Lifetime Achievement Award “Golden Camera 300” was granted to the French and world cinematographer, Pierre Lhomme, by the president of the Republic of Macedonia, Gjorgje Ivanov.

Pierre Lhomme said that he was very pleased that one of the awards was awarded to Giuseppe Rotunno, an artist who showed all the possibilities of cinematography. He also emphasized that the cinematographers are people who greatly participate in the art of film and that is why he is happy that the festival “Manaki Brothers” celebrates the art of cinematography.  

– I would like to thank all my colleagues-filmmakers, especially the cinematographers, because they are the “first people behind the camera”, who show us the beginnings of the film; the first filmmakers were the ones who were behind the camera and filmed the moving images. In regards to me, I think that I was very lucky because I worked with people who considered film the most important thing in their lives and I hope that this festival will succeed in transferring that passion to you as well – said Pierre Lhomme. 

The award “Big Star of the Macedonian Film”, which is granted by the Society of Macedonian Film Professionals, was for the first time given to an institution, not a person. The president of the Society of Macedonian Film Professionals, Robert Naskov, dedicated the award to the oldest Macedonian production house, Vardar Film, which celebrates its 70-year jubilee since its formation.

– Unfortunately Vardar Film no longer exists and that is why there is no one here to receive the award. This is a sort of posthumous award granting which shows our lack of concern for culture and tradition. With this award the Society of Macedonian Film Professionals wants to honor all the people who were employed in Vardar Film and who also contributed to the development of the Macedonian cinematography – said Naskov.

Before the beginning of the screenings of the short film “The End of Time” directed by Milcho Manchevski and “Directions”, a film in a Macedonian-Bulgarian-German co-production, Gjorgje Ivanov, the president of the Republic of Macedonia, also addressed the audience. 

Ivanov spoke about the contrast of darkness and light, the interest of the brothers Milton and Janaki Manaki, who bought the first film camera on the Balkans.

-A lot of cinematographers from Macedonia, Europe, and the world shared with us their major artistic achievements on our international festival. In spite of their differences, all the films have something in common, which is the contrast between darkness and light, the physical as well as the ethical one. That is why, when we think that darkness is weighing us down and the situation seems hopeless, we should all remember the words of one Macedonian poet, Igor Isakovski, that the night is darkest before dawn. The light shines the brightest in the darkest of moments – said the president Ivanov and declared the festival open.

The opening ceremony was enriched by a performance directed by Nela Vitoshevikj, where actors and young dancers from the Faculty of Music Arts performed an energetic collage from famous movie scenes from the works of the Lifetime Achievement Award laureates. 

The new short film by Milcho Manchevski, “The End of Time”, had its Macedonian premiere in Bitola. After the screening of “Directions”, part of the film crew bowed in front of the audience, led by the producers Vladimir Anastasov and Angelina Nestorovska from “Sektor Film”, as well as actors and the cinematographer Hristov.