14 September, Bitola – Bitola started breathing in the festival spirit of the “Manaki Brothers” festival. The red carpet in front of the Centre for Culture saw numerous foreign and domestic film workers, directors, cinematographers, members of the international jury, as well as representatives of the highest political circles of the country, public personalities and a large number of locals from Bitola.

Before they came to the red carpet, the guests and the audience went through a specially built construction which hosted the performance in honor of the jubilee of one of the largest film festivals devoted to the work of the cinematographers in Europe. It was a cinematic experience in itself, where the audience was included as an actor, as one frame from the “film”. An experience in which the reality is melted into art and vice versa. The choreographer of the performance was Iskra Shukarova, the director Johan Melin from Sweden also participated, and the performance was directed by Srgjan Janikievik.

“One frame for me, one frame for the history” was the motto of the brothers Milton and Janaki Manaki, who changed Bitola with their restless spirit. The Balkan film history started exactly here, in Bitola, the city with rich cultural tradition, where tonight the 40th edition of the ICFF “Manaki Brothers” was opened and the Golden Camera 300 for Lifetime Achievement award was awarded to Edward Lachman and the Big Star of Macedonian Film was awarded to the composer Ljupcho Konstantinov by the MFPA.

The attendees at the opening ceremony of the jubilee edition of the ICFF “Manaki Brothers” were greeted by the major of Bitola, Natasha Petrovska, who gave them all a warm welcome, and the minister for culture of the Republic of North Macedonia, Husni Ismaili, expressed his pleasure that he has the opportunity to share the stage with the great heroes of Macedonian cinematography, and with the great names of the film world, all at the jubilee celebration of film at the oldest film camera festival in the world.

-I would like to bow before the founders of the Macedonian contemporary organized cinematography who showed a brave vision when 40 years ago, in the city of the first cameramen in the Balkan, started to organize the then called “Manaki Gatherings”. Those pioneers, devoted film lovers, as well as the generations after them, and the young filmmakers and managers of today, succeeded in battling out for a shining spot for the “Manaki Brothers” festival on the map of the great number of film festivals around the world. They managed to attract, sustain and enhance the attention towards Bitola, towards North Macedonia, towards film in the region of the top film professionals among the cinematographers whose work is part of the world history of film, Ismaili pointed out.

From the name of IMAGO, the International Association of Cinematographers, the attendees were greeted by Nigel Walters.

-We are all gathered here today to celebrate the storytelling through moving images and to remember the day when Janaki went to London to buy the camera and not even assume that the tool he is buying will become the main tool of the greatest art of the future. Bitola became Mecca of all cinematographers and as a vice president of the British Association of Cinematographers I came here to bring you the greetings of the large number of laureates of this festival in the past years. Making films is a collaborative act, and making such a festival is also a collaborative act, Walters said.

He also thanked the MFPA for the help they gave IMAGO for the hosting of the annual IMAGO conference which takes place during the festival and which unites the nine cinematographers’ associations of the Balkans.

-A great impression was left on me that year when I came, and the festival was transferred in Skopje; before the opening I went outside and in the rain I saw a large group of people from Bitola who stood there and protested because the festival was taken away from them. I don’t know if there are some of those people among you, but I think that those are the real heroes of the festivals, together with the volunteers, the cinema operators, all those people who really work hard for all this to happen, Walters pointed out.

Jim Sheridan, one of the most impressive European Irish film names, a director, scriptwriter, producer and filmmaker of unforgettable film stories, spoke to the attendees from the name of the EFA. Thinking back to an event from his childhood, Sheridan pointed to the importance of television.

-Television is sometimes underestimated, we aren’t aware of how powerful moving images are. It is a great pleasure that I am chose on behalf of the EFA to be tonight at this ceremony where film art is celebrated, Sheridan pointed out.

The president of the MFPA, Igor Ivanov started his speech with “The first 40 are the toughest ones” – which was actually the motto of the organization team of this edition of the festival.

-Macedonian film had a quite successful year, one like we hadn’t had in a long time, not just in presentation, but also in production. Seven feature films were shot, not counting the co-productions, but we also got some great loses. MFPA lost 5 of its film legends: Tome Molovski, Angel Kuzmanovski, Meto Petrovski, Kiril Cenevski and Dragan Salkovski.

Ivanov gave the “Big Star of Macedonian Film” award of MFPA to the composer Ljupcho Konstantinov. This year the award looks a little different, and it was made by Bozhinovski, a jeweler from Bitola.

-Macedonia is a small country, we are a small cinematography and it that sense we can’t make a mistake. This award has so far been received by Kiril Cenevski, Milcho Manchevski, Darko Markovik, Simon Perry, Milica Stojanova and Vardar Film, our most valuable film production. Thirty-five authorial music tracks for film were made by Ljupcho Konstantinov, he worked with the greatest directors of Macedonian film and wider, Ivanov pointed out at the presentation of this great accolade.

Giving his gratitude to the MFPA for the award he received and to the directors who had given their trust to write the music for their films, Konstantinov pointed out that this evening has a special meaning to him because he has origins from Bitola.

-In the past years, I was at times more, at times less successful, but I will keep trying to be better and better, Konstantinov said.

The patron of the festival, the President Stevo Pendarovski opened the festival and presented the Golden Camera 300 for Lifetime Achievement award to Edward Lachman, a cinematographer who so far has two Oscar nominations, a BAFTA for Lifetime Achievement and he is called the “Wizard with the Camera”.

-The relationship between the cinematographer and the director isn’t like a marriage, but as a dance couple. The only question is if both of them listen to the same music. The director is the one who sets the stage and should treat the cinematographers as one more actor who gives its best act, but it is important that the director really allows him to shine in his full glory. This is a rare opportunity for me, I have heard a lot about the festival and I wanted to come here for years. To be in the company of such large names who were laureates, part of who have been my mentors, such as Sven Nykvist, Robby Muller… I simply don’t know if I belong here, in this inheritance. In this part of life, the receiving of such an accolade seems like a closure, but for me it seems that it shows that it is a continuous process of learning from one another through various experiences. The journey is what matters, not the destination. What happens today is for me a revisit, of memories, of old friends and of creating new friendships, Lachman said.

Congratulating the 40-year jubilee of the festival, the president Pendarovski pointed out that it is a result of the endurance and the restless work in the past four decades of all who are part of the organization and the selection of the program. With that, in the words of the president Pendarovski, the inheritance that was left by Janaki and Milton Manaki is consistently and devotedly taken care of.

-Reaching its forty-year milestone, we don’t say that a festival is an old one, but that it found its spot in the culture of a country and the people for good. The “Manaki Brothers” festival started as a modest gathering honoring the first Balkan cinematographers. I suppose that it was then a sort of a pilot for which very few people could believe would grow to be a renowned European and world festival. And that is of course due to at least two reasons. The unbreakable will in the walking on the only possible way of creativity, which is not easy in an unpredictable and fast time where ideologies, values, borders of countries and the world are changing. On the opposite of that dynamics, the festival here, in Bitola, brought some of the most outstanding names of film art in general, among which there are many Oscar candidates and winners. The 40-year jubilee is, of course, also a result of the precise concept of the repertoire over the years. The film art is and engaged art which, among other things, speaks also of the conscience of society. For me and for many others, film artists are the counterculture heroes which address some of the most flaming question of our time on the film screen – the social injustice, the human dignity, the refugees, the discrimination, the ecology… It is enough to go through the program to see that a large number of the films are devoted to the dominant themes in the world and here. They not only make us think, but encourage us to fight against the indifference and the exclusion from the world and from the life, inspiring us to respect the difference and to create a society of equal citizens, which offers the same chances to everyone, Pendarovski pointed out.

The director of the festival, Gena Teodosievska, who brought the slogan “Film belongs to all of us”, gave her gratitude to all those who helped in the making of the festival and all those who this evening were sitting in the seats in the hall where our ancestors sat at the beginning of the “Manaki Gatherings”.

-To me this festival is my film school. I am part of you since 1985, a part of this festival. I can really say that this festival is my great love. They say that those who ask bring the light. These films that we picked for you will pose many questions, Teodosievska said.

At the opening ceremony of the 40th edition of the ICFF “Manaki Brothers”, the film Pain and Glory was screened. The ceremony was also attended by the cinematographer Jose Luis Alcaine.

-It is my second time in Bitola and this is an amazing experience for me all over again.  My prime language isn’t English, it isn’t Macedonian, it isn’t even Spanish, but it is images and I hope that through images I will give you what I want to say, Alcaine said before the screening.