Manaki Brothers - International Cinematographers’ Film Festival

Talks with Almodovar’s cinematographer, Alcaine, Ljupcho Konstantinov and Jim Sheridan today at “Manaki Brothers”

15 September, Bitola – Following yesterday’s opening ceremony of the 40th jubilee edition of the ICFF “Manaki Brothers”, today there were meetings with big film names as the cinematographer Jose Luis Alcaine and the Irish director and scriptwriter Jim Sheridan. There was also a talk with the recipient of the MFPA award Big Star of Macedonian Film, the composer Ljupcho Konstantinov.

The program at today’s festival day started with the press conference with Jose Luis Alcaine, the cinematographer who collaborates with Pedro Almodovar, whose film Pain and Glory was screened last night at the opening of the 40th edition of the ICFF “Manaki Brothers”.

-He is one of the greatest, not just Spanish, but also world cinematographers. It is really a privilege that you are once again a guest at ICFF “Manaki Brothers”, Blagoja Kunovski Dore, the artistic director of the festival and the selector of the main program, said during the introduction of Alcaine.

Pain and Glory is the new work of Almodovar and as always he works with maestro Alcaine. What is specific about this film is that it is autobiographical, Banderas is the alter ego of Almodovar, and the shooting is in the actual apartment, which was transformed in a studio.

-It is very odd, because before Pain and Glory, I worked on the film Everybody Knows, which was directed by Farhadi. There were 10 main characters. There is usually one with Farhadi, but now there more main characters, so I had eight actors in the frame. I played with a high diaphragm in that film and in that way we achieved a very important depth of the image, so when everybody was in the frame – everybody was in focus. That is the weird thing in modern cinematography, you can have a focus on all the characters on the screen. We didn’t talk too much about the film with Almodovar. We only spoke about two sentences. We found ourselves talking about life over dinner, not talking about the film. We found a good way of collaboration. He was only telling me one sentence. He would only say: “I want focus on the whole screen” and because I had the experience from the shooting of Everybody Knows, I said to him: “Yes, I also think there should be focus on everybody”. Then we only prepared the film about the colors: the colors of the clothes, of the scenography and no more than that, Alcaine told.

For the cinematographer, the film narration is essential to read the film.

-For this, an important thing is the talk between Francois Truffaut and Hitchcock. Hitchcock says that two months before the start of the shoot, he has already shot it, it is all in his head. That must have been true for his films, but the film is constantly changing, it’s a fluid process and it has its life, so it can go one way or the other. And that is why the way Hitchcock thinks is impossible. That is a way of following the order of the shooting script, but I think that it is not the way films should be made. We have to be open to whatever during the shooting, Alcaine said.

According to him, “we can see a lot of films which are beautiful to watch, but the image doesn’t tell the story, it even goes the opposite way of the narration itself”.

Comparing the collaboration with Almodovar in his early years and now, Alcaine said that “there is a great difference because in the past years they have both changed a lot”.

-Both of us have changed a lot and we easily understand each other now than in the beginning, especially when we had disagreements. In the beginning, while we were shooting Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, I almost didn’t speak to Almodovar about the lighting in the film. He left it all to me, but after he would see, he would tell me if it’s good or not and then the problem would come up. The colors Pedro Almodovar picks are very hard to show on screen. We argued about the light which was supposed to show the green color of the cover on which Banderas was sitting. We were mad at each other for more than 16 years and I didn’t work on a film with him. He didn’t look for me, I didn’t look for him, all up to 2004 when Esther Garcia, who is a director of production on all the films of Almodovar, asked me: Did you stop being mad? You won’t mind shooting another film with Pedro? And then I thought that 16 years are enough to stop being mad and we worked together again. We work well together now, Alcaine said.

At the start of today’s talk, which was moderated by Stojan Sinadinov, with one of the most eminent Macedonian composers of film and theater music, Ljupcho Konstantinov, he pointed out that he is happy to see that there is an interested audience for such events, as the film camera festival, and that the new technological development hasn’t destroyed art. “I am happy the end still hasn’t come”, he said.

He spoke of the role of music in a film work and he said that he is led by the saying that the music starts where the word stops.

-I agree with what even some great authors of film music have said that it is the hardest thing for a composer to come to the theme and that takes up most of the time, Konstantinov said. He has written the music track for film such as Happy New ’49, Tattoo, Across the Lake and many others.

-Working with every director is different. One lets me put together the music myself, another decides himself which scene he wants music on. Although, it doesn’t always work that way because the music announces that something will happen or is a reminiscence of an action or a feeling.

Konstantinov said that no matter what, there shouldn’t be compromises in art. “From all of my experience so far, I know that the worst thing is to make a compromise”, he said.

He spoke about how sometime at the end of the 60s, he became interested in music as a young boy when he started playing the guitar in Ohrid and the time when he also started to like film.

-One has to always educate and upgrade himself, the young generation now has easier ways. It was hard to get a music score, and now it’s all online. No matter what, one should be curious and experiment all the time”.

A talk with the world renowned director, scriptwriter and producer Jim Sheridan was also held today, whose films include the masterpieces My Left Foot and In the Name of the Father.

At the start of the talk, led by Blagoja Kunovski Dore, Sheridan, who came to the “Manaki Brothers” festival as a representative from the European Film Academy (EFA), pointed out that he is surprised by the seriousness of the way the festival is organized, and that the opening was also not a joke. He thinks that the festival devoted to the work of cinematographers is much more intellectual than the other film festivals.

-I was looking through the program and I noticed that a large part of the films which are selected to be screened here are great.

On the question of how Brexit influences Ireland, he answered with an anecdote:

-Ireland is like a cinematographer to the UK, it doesn’t “exist”, but it’s there. We were a threat to the Brits in a way. In the past, on Ireland’s border, towers were built and unless someone is a threat to you, you don’t build such towers. The British thought that the Europeans would use Ireland to attack Britain. That is how others were looking on this small catholic country, which was dated and old-fashioned. And that’s our history, he said, speaking about the political history of his country.

He also spoke about his film In the Name of the Father, which is about how politics and the church separate families.

On today’s program, there are screenings of short films, special screening of Jazzman by director Aljosha Simjanovski, as well as films from the European Film Perspectives program, from the documentary program, and from the Camera 300 competition the film Les Miserables will be screened today.

From the additional events, films from the Manaki brothers will be screened at Magaza, and from the Country in Focus program – the film The Black Pin, directed by Ivan Marinovic. Following on, there will be the screening of Midnight Dancers by the director Meto Petrovski, the film Community Gardens from the Short Films program, and Synonyms, directed by Nadav Lapid, in the Golden Camera 300 competition. In honor of Ljupcho Konstantinov, this year’s recipient of the Big Star of Macedonian Film award by MFPA, the film Happy New ’49, directed by Stole Popov, will be screened tonight.