Manaki Brothers - International Cinematographers’ Film Festival


September 26, Bitola – Before leaving Macedonia, the Academy Award-winner Roger Deakins held a special Master Class only for the students attending the festival, a lot of questions were asked, the students used the rare opportunity to meet and get answers live from one of the great names of world cinematography.

This morning, guest at the press-conference was Kalojan Bozhilov, cinematographer from Bulgaria, who introduced the film Aga.

-A stunning film, a visual poem, which was a Berlinale gem. Some film critics thought that it was a pity for it not to be in the competition at the Festival, but it might be a Bulgarian Academy Award candidate. The film is very unique, done in tough circumstances and it was probably a huge challenge to film in a polar eternal winter, below 20-25°C, the selector Blagoja Kunovski – Dore said.

Bozhilov explained that this film won’t be a Bulgarian candidate for the Oscar this year because it still has to pass the festival light of Varna, but it might happen next year.

-in fact, when we arrived in Yakutia, it was -40°C, but it was the same situation as filming anywhere. The most important thing was not to have to retake scenes because the snow level was rising. You could only film once, no retakes. That made everything go slower. We were filming for 40 days in total. I chose to film on 35mm strip. A filmstrip, not digitally, because of the cold weather, the picture and the story itself. I used an ARRI White Cam, which is quite good. ARRI is a world leader. Milko and I are already a duo, this is the second film we work on, Bozhilov shared experience.

Giving her gratitude for the beautiful film, the festival director Gena Teodosievska pointed out that she was amazed when she saw the film at the Berlin film festival and were trying together with the selector Kunovski to bring the film to the Festival in Bitola.

-I like the fact that there is a storm inside the characters, and the faces of the characters are still. We truly made a compound of the human nature and nature itself, but also put them apart in the wide shots, Teodosievska pointed out.

The film Refuge, directed by Sara Logan Hofstein, was screened as a special feature. It is about an American-Jewish negotiator who moves to Vienna and starts a relationship with a refugee from Ethiopia. The film story connects to the life story of the director and script writer Sara Logan Hofstein.

-I am a Jew from USA who lives in Vienna. A lot was happening in Austria in 2015 that gave the possibility to pull back lines to the events of 1938. The chancellor of Austria stepped down, refugees came in and were put into camps, not concentration camps, but camps nonetheless, personal items were taken from them, the same that was happening to the Jews and all that deal touched me personally as a Jew. Still, about 95% of Austrians, especially the young population, supports the refugees and their struggle, the old regime is in fact the one still holding on to the dated and dangerous values. But the good thing is that it became clear to the Austrians that they were not victims in World War II, but perpetrators, they got that and moved on. We didn’t want to go hard on anyone with this film, but to motivate everyone to do what they can. One person might not change the world, but a movement can, and that is the message. As a short film, it was tough to get the big companies interested in supporting the filming. I want to point out the wonderful sponsorship by ARRI, who gave us the whole working equipment, the director and script writer of the film spoke.

The film is done by a family crew: Sara is daughter of Michael and Maria Hofstein, who appear in this film as a cinematographer and producer respectively, and who, on the other hand, have great experience at the Hollywood productions and studios.

-We are like gears of a family machine. We are a family of filmmakers, we have spent our whole life in the studios in LA, and then in Europe for 20 years. We work very harmoniously as a team, Michael Hofstein, the cinematographer of the film Refuge, said.

From the European Cinema Perspectives selection, Slagjan Penev introduced the film Eternal Winter and the cinematographer András Nagy. The film is based on a true story for some Hungarians who were taken to Soviet concentration camps in 1944. This question has been raised in the Hungarian society for the first time.

-700.000 people were deported and 300.000 of them never returned. This a traumatic episode for a society and it was not talked about for 60-70 years, so it must have been a surprise for the Hungarian public. A lot of Hungarians don’t even know of these events, Penev said.

It is shot on very snowy mountains and they’ve had close encounters with wolves, but the most important thing is that a true story is told in this film for the first time, one which motivated the elders to tell their stories.

-The most important thing is that the people that were there, in Novgorod, couldn’t talk about it at the time, before 1989, and afterwards, they just didn’t want to. This was the moment that started some sort of a talk, and the media fully supported the film. My favorite part of the film is the events from the mine, the whole crew worked underground for a whole week, and we tended to transfer the same feeling of the people who actually worked here at that time, Nagy said.

Introduction of the European program Less Is More (LIM)

Gorjan Tozija, director of the Macedonian Film Agency, and Massimiliano Nardulli today presented the collaboration between the Macedonian Film Agency and the program Less Is More, created by the Le Groupe Ouest (France). Numerous activities will be held as part of this program and the partnership, and as an especially significant one is the organizing of the workshop for local film professionals titled Pre-Writing Workshop.

-What we introduce now is something that is in preparation for the following edition of the Festival, the jubilee, the 40th edition of the ICFF Manaki Brothers. This program truly is as though created for Macedonia. The main motto of the program is “Less is more” and it focuses on the young cinema-makers who still haven’t made a feature film, up to having made two previous feature film already. The film skill is to make a better film with less money, and that is what we need. If you give someone a lot of money, it is not a guarantee that he will make a good film, but on the contrary, our experience shows that here the films done on a smaller budget have far bigger success. The idea itself, the specific of the script-writing, the more original, inventive, use of recent subjects in them is what will define the budget and will contribute to the appearance of a new wave in Macedonian cinematography, which is our strategic point, Tozija pointed out.

He also pointed out that the MFPA should also aim towards more foreign collaborations. Massimiliano Nardulli, representative of the European program Less Is More (LIM), aimed at lower budget films, where film authors with no or up to two previous feature films can apply, presenting the program, said that Macedonia has a lot of talent and will have its role in the European cinematography.

-Your country is full of stories and a reservoir of talent. This program’s focus is the script and we work with smaller budget projects so that the authors can get to a more creative approach, but also because of the fact that the independent films are in danger from the big productions, Nardulli said.

He pointed out that he is proud that Macedonia is the first country from the Balkans that joins this project.

The short film program for the Small Camera 300 is also in full swing, as the films are judged by the international five-member jury.

The Makpoint program is rather interesting for the audience in Bitola, where the most recent Macedonian productions are screened, quite often even before their official premieres. The screenings are followed by talks with the authors, moderated by Ana Vasilevska, the program selector.

Today marked the end of the IMAGO Balkan Conference, the conference of the Federation of world cinematographers from 53 national associations and over 4300 member-cinematographers. Aside from the cinematographers from the region, the Macedonian representatives Dejan Dimeski, Naum Doksevski and Dushan Kardalevski, the conference was also attended by the leading men of IMAGO, the president Paul René Roestad and Nigel Walters.