Manaki Brothers - International Cinematographers’ Film Festival

The “Manaki Brothers” laureate, Edward Lachman held a masterclass, and John Mathieson, the cinematographer of ‘Gladiator’, also arrived in Bitola

18 September, Bitola – Meetings with the press, presentations, film workshops, the “Manaki Brothers” festival, besides the screenings which start at 10 in the morning and last until midnight, hosts a number of other additional events. The festival audience had the unique opportunity to follow the masterclass of the world-renowned cinematographer Edward Lachman, the laureate of this year’s jubilee edition of the “Manaki Brothers”, moderated by his colleague and old friend of the festival, Nigel Walters from the Association of Cinematographers IMAGO.

The masterclass of Lachman was also attended by Fatih Akin, who came to hear more details from the master of the camera. Today’s masterclass was a real talk of the great ones, as it was also attended by the director Jim Sheridan and the British cinematographer John Mathieson, a twice Oscar-nominee for the films Gladiator and Phantom of the Opera.

Blagoja Kunovski – Dore, selector of the competition program at the “Manaki Brothers”, gave an introduction of the masterclass as a top event of the festival program, and Walters pointed out that there is no need of a special introduction of Lachman and his film works. He mentioned that 43 years ago, on a film set, where Sven Nykvist was the cinematographer, he had met the young Lachman as a camera assistant. Lachman expressed special respect towards the cinematography great names in the audience – festival guests such as John Mathieson, Paul Rene Roestad, Rainer Klausmann etc.

The audience, which filled up the Small Hall of the Center for Culture up to the last spot, had the opportunity at the start of the masterclass to see a representative video reel with scenes from a dozen of films with Lachman as their cinematographer. He has worked with some of the leading film authors at the turn of the century, such as Todd Haynes, Wim Wenders, Volker Schlöndorff, Ulrich Siedl etc.

Lachman is born in New Jersey, USA, and as a young child he visited an art school, and after that he got interested in film more seriously.

-I started to shoot documentaries, and they even payed me for it, Lachman remembered his beginnings in film through laughter.

One of his first documentaries was about a drug addicts home in the USA, and the next 3-4 years worked as an operator-cinematographer of the second camera on the film sets. Shooting and directing documentary films stayed his special love and passion.

-The approach towards the camera in the documentaries is different than in the feature films, but there are cases, such as in the films Export-Import and Paradise: Love by Ulrich Seidl, where I was cinematographer, where you hardly draw a line between fiction and documentary, Lachman pointed out.

He also illustrated his stance on the importance of the camera, which tells the story of the film through images, through the camerawork of Chris Menges in the film The Boxer by Jim Sheridan, who is also present at the festival as a representative of the European Film Academy.

In terms of the question of the moderator Walters about his starting experiences with European film, Lachman pointed out that he was primarily interested in the films of the Italian neorealism.

-I saw how to build characters in the film in them. One doesn’t have that in Hollywood nowadays, only video games are filmed there now, no films, Lachman thinks.

The European part of his cinematography career started with the work on the films of Wim Wenders, Volker Schlöndorff, continuing with Ulrich Seidl…

Lachman is a great plotter about shooting on film. He had usually shot the European films of that period on a 35mm filmstrip; however, a possibly unexpected thing is that they had shot Carol by Todd Haynes, a film from 2015, on a 16mm filmstrip, because of the wanted atmosphere of the film.

-The pre-production was a very important phase of the making of the film because that is where the style of the film is defined, especially when it’s period films in the question, Lachman pointed out.

His thoughts on black-and-white film and color film are also interesting.

-The black-and-white filmstrip functions with a different grain and exposition of the image. Nowadays, you can shoot in color, and then make it black-and-white in the studio labs with digital technology, but you won’t achieve the same effect, Lachman says.

Edward Lachman also had a talk with the students yesterday, where they talked of the technical aspects of the cinematography work.

Last night, at the popular Magaza in Bitola, a presentation of short films from the MECAL Film Festival from Barcelona was held, and the previous day, the audience had the opportunity to see also the selection of short films from the festival in Poznan, Poland. The “Manaki Brothers” had started a collaboration with these two festivals from this year and it already had its presentation in Poland.

Aleksandar Trajkovski promoted his book Music in the Macedonian Feature Film: from Frosina to Lazar, which is the first larger musicological-filmological analysis of Macedonian feature film.

At the press conference, Tudor Mircea, the cinematographer of the film The Whistlers, during the talk with the selector of the official program Blagoja Kunovski – Dore, shared experiences from the shooting of the film, which is a political thriller.

-This is a festival of cinematographers and it is important that they are here. This is your festival, Kunovski said, stressing that even in the selection of the films itself, he openly asked them to be present at the ICFF “Manaki Brothers” in Bitola if their film was selected.

The Whistlers is an interesting film and it is different form all the other films they have done with the director Corneliu Porumboiu, with who they are friends from their school days.

-We’ve been so far shooting on film, but this time we shot digitally and we had many frames. The drama happens in Romania, the Canary Islands and in Singapore. This whistling language is learned at the Canary Islands by the small children at school and one of the characters in the film is a teacher in such a school. Corneliu had seen a documentary film about it and that is where the idea of such a film comes from. The scene in the park in Singapore was one of the toughest scenes. We only had 10 minutes to shoot and we set up a sort of a hidden camera, because we weren’t allowed to set up additional lighting, Mircea said.

According to him, the different approach in this film comes from the decision of Corneliu to attract audience, because that is a big problem. Although films go well at the festivals in Cannes, Venice etc., the audience in Romania is not so large.

Ron Johanson, cinematographer from Australia, came to Bitola to attend the IMAGO board meeting, which is held at the festival, and took time today to talk to the press.

-It is wonderful to be here in Bitola. I appreciate the “Manaki Brothers” festival a lot, Australia is a part of IMAGO and that is why I am here. The “Manaki Brothers” festival is very popular in Australia, because it becomes a sort of a family event. It is very appreciated in Australia to come here and I think that in the future there will be even more participants and guests of the festival from Australia, Johanson said.

This year, Bitola hosts one of the most impressive cinematographers, not only in the UK, but also worldwide – John Mathieson. He has been twice nominated for an Oscar for the films Phantom of the Opera and Gladiator, and he’s been nominated the same amount of times for the ICFF “Manaki Brothers” award.

-Shooting films is connected to the visual language. If you have a good production and good collaborators, you have nothing to worry about. I like more simple things, with less filters, less pomp. We have to point out that the directors I collaborate with want to make films, but it is very hard to comply with the distribution, because companies want superheroes, genre films etc., and when you connect with commercials, millions of dollars come in, and things still come together, Mathieson says.

He revealed that as a young kid he was a fan of James Bond films and he was interested in who had made them and how, as well as the films of Wenders, Spielberg and others.

-I think that there is a big change now, especially in terms of the pioneers of film. For example, the area where Charlie Chaplin was filming in London doesn’t exist anymore, which is really bad because it would be great to be able to go through it and make a museum. Exactly that part of London, where there are cobblestone streets, houses covered in smoke, a grayness in the ambience with which Chaplin shows the authentic life at that time in London. It is hard to make such a thing nowadays, Mathieson thinks.

Cinema is a temple for him, and the only supporters of films are the festivals.

-This is a film festival and I love it when people go to the temple. There are 4-5 cinemas in London now, which are privatized and nothing of quality is screened there. The selection depends on the owner of the cinema. There are very few independent cinemas which show quality content, but also rare are the moments where an audience whose attention can be captured and held is concentrated. I love the idea of entering the temple, the cinema, to turn off all the gadgets and enjoy the film. You have to give something to people, to make them think, because you don’t get the same quality of sound, the perspective, at home, you can’t see all that is put into making the film, Mathieson pointed out.

From the short film selection, the Macedonian film Vera was screened, and the actress in the main role and the author of the music in the film shared experiences from the shooting. The music in the film is an ethno music from the world played on a saxophone, inspired by Japanese music, and, along with the acting and directing parts, it is very subtle.

-There is black and white, and the end of the film is an open question and that should be, in some way, closed from the very start of the shooting. The space between the black and the white is good to exist because it will bring the decision. According to me, it is good that we left an open ending for the viewer to not be sure of what happened until the very end, Simona Dimkovska, actress form the film, said.

Jesper Andersen from the Danish Film Institute spoke to Ana Chkonia, representative of the Georgian Film Fund, of the country which is a country in focus at the ICFF “Manaki Brothers”.

-I am very happy that Georgia is chosen as a country in focus at the festival. The selection is amazing, they are modern films from the past ten years. The country invests and supports young professionals. The visual expression of our films is what captures the viewers more, the scripts are not that strong, Chkonia said, presenting the ways the Georgian cinematography works.

The director of the documentary film Marceline. A Woman. A Century, Cordelia Dvorak, talked with the director of the festival Gena Teodosievska about the documentary film, as well as generally about its future, but also about the film devoted to the amazing French film director, author, producer, actress and artist, Marceline Loridan-Ivens, radical chronicler who had survived the Holocaust.

-The structure of the documentary film, especially in the last 20 years, has changed a lot in Europe and the directors working on documentary films start to explore in a deeper way to put all the elements together and to show all aspects, Teodosievska pointed out.

The structure of expanding of the documentary film, according to Dvorak, depends on the conditions in which the film is made.

-When you shoot a documentary film, you can’t always presume what situation you will find yourself into. I had to experience different situations during the shooting, but I am mostly focused on the protagonist and I mostly make portraits than anything else. You have to be very well prepared, to make a good research so you can be prepared for everything that can happen, but to also be completely open, curious, ready to shoot whatever comes in front of the camera and to react on it right away, although the concept can change. You are not the one who leads and shoots anymore. The story and what is happening in front of you is what leads you, Dvorak revealed.

She underlined that Germany supports making of documentaries, although they don’t make a profit, but that is right and should be done throughout Europe, the audience should be educated, because they also change the ones who work on the film, as well as the viewers.

-Each process changes you, and in this special case, Marceline collaborated in the film in a very unusual way. What impressed me was that she was very small, but had great strength. Always, even besides all the health and other hardships, she was finding a way to fight for herself and for the others, Dvorak said, pointing out that she enjoys the festival in Bitola, where films are discussed about.

This evening, the audience in Bitola will get to see the documentary film Honeyland for the first time, which will be screened as part of the festival program.