September 19, Bitola – At tonight’s event devoted to the marking of the 41st edition of the International Cinematographers’ Film Festival “Manaki Brothers”, which was held at the Museum and Institute Bitola, we saw the arrival of the festival admirers from Bitola, the Minister for Culture, Irena Stefoska, the director of the Film Agency, Gorjan Tozija, film professionals, representatives of the diplomatic corps, lovers of the film art. The patron of the festival, the President of the Republic of North Macedonia, Stevo Pendarovski, addressed the attending guests, saying that the “Manaki Brothers” is one of the most significant cultural events in our country, which has a rich history, much enthusiasm and love for the film art entwined in it.

“Thanks to this festival, Bitola and our country have been recognized in the world of cinema. Unfortunately, this year we don’t have the red carpet and the recognizable glamour in front of the Center for Culture in Bitola, we don’t have the film screenings and crowded theaters, we don’t have our dear guests from the world of film. The Covid-19 pandemic changed all the plans and affected the programme planned for the 41st edition of the “Manaki Brothers”. However, the tradition continues, and the festival keeps on going in a shorter and adapted form”, said president Pendarovski.

He congratulated this year’s awards recipients: Janusz Kamiński, laureate of the Golden Camera 300 for Lifetime Achievement, and Stole Popov, who was awarded with the MFPA award “Big Star of Macedonian Film”.

“Exactly the days during the pandemic have shown us how important is art, and in particular, what is the power and role that cinema has. It goes without saying that the experience of watching a film on the big screen cannot be matched and I believe that after things go back to normal, once again, with an even greater enthusiasm and curiosity, we will go back to the cinema theaters”, said president Pendarovski.

The mayor of Bitola, Natasha Petrovska, spoke of the fact that the “Manaki Brothers” festival keeps up the pulse of the city of Bitola. “In the city that sees events happening every day, which constantly lives with the culture events, the city which has kept the art since the time of antiquity, from Heraclea to each façade in our city. Exactly in this city one can pack a series of life situations and they can represent a motive for the following cinematography editions. This is all a deep motive to keep up the festival, even in such conditions which we are in now, such as the pandemic. This is all an additional motive for us also to leave something for the generations to come”, said Petrovska, also congratulating this year’s awards recipients, in her words, “with much more faith in the next one”.

The “Big Star of Macedonian Film” award, which is awarded by the Macedonian Film Professionals’ Association, this year went in the hands of one of the most prominent people of the Macedonian cinematography, the director Stole Popov. The award was ceremonially presented to him by the president of the MFPA, Igor Ivanov, who pointed out that the national point is exceptionally important to go from in the film art more than in any other.

“When we are at festivals, the country’s name is written there and the flag of our country Macedonia, Republic of North Macedonia, is waving there. If I have to mark our cinematography, the Macedonian cinematography, with the name of an author – it would undoubtedly be Stole Popov”, said Ivanov, reminding of the most important awards and accolades of Popov, which had culminated with the Oscar for documentary film nomination in 1979, for the film “Dae”.

“Stole Popov’s films weren’t coming out of the cinemas, the lines from his films are part of the urban life and jargon of the people of Skopje, of the people of Bitola, of all of us who live here. He is undoubtedly one of the greatest cultural actors of the time we live in and, in the year of the 70-year anniversary of existence of our Macedonian Film Professionals’ Association, I am exceptionally honored that we award our biggest accolade, the “Big Star of Macedonian Film”, to Stole Popov”, said Ivanov.

Giving his gratitude for the award, Popov said that every award can get relativized over the years, but there are still two types of accolades that he cannot be indifferent to and he takes them with great joy, and those are the audience awards and the awards from the colleagues. “Every person that works with film knows of the hard and painful road to a film product, it is thousands of small and large battles, from the toughest battle with oneself to make the vision you carry within yourself come true and to win over your collaborators in the most suggestible way, so that from practically nothing you make something that the audience will love and will watch and it will not get lost in the passage of time. My films are mainly about the eternal theme in cinematography: freedom and love, before all. There is nothing more immanent to the freedom than the identity of a person, his language, his culture, his spirit and the spirit of the environment where he lives. I would like to turn the attention of the people working in politics to not forget and to not neglect those fundamental values of the world cinematography and democracy, which are getting more and more neglected and lost. They should have one thing in mind: those things can’t be forced”, said Stole Popov.

Kees van Oostrum, the newly elected president of IMAGO, the International Federation of Cinematographers, addressed the attendees via video message. IMAGO has recognized the “Manaki Brothers” festival as a partner ever since 1995. “It is incredible that the members of the Macedonian Film Professionals’ Association are still keeping up the festival in good shape”, said van Oostrum.

An exciting moment at the marking of the 41st edition of the “Manaki Brothers” was the addressing of this year’s laureate of the Golden Camera 300 for Lifetime Achievement, the Oscar-winner Janusz Kamiński, the big Polish-American and world cinematographer, who started his addressing in Macedonian: “Zdravo, prijateli, kako ste? (Hello, friends, how are you?) It is my great honor that I am the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement award from the International Cinematographers’ Film Festival “Manaki Brothers”. It seems that I am the youngest recipient. Still, they say that years are just a number. I would like to also congratulate to all the film professionals who have been acknowledged by the festival for their work. Congratulations.

I can’t wait to visit Bitola, I can’t wait to take a picture in front of the monument representing the Manaki brothers. Such inventors! Such innovators! They have created the contemporary cinematography! Besides that, I can’t explain to you how happy I am that I will visit Macedonia and drink Mastika. I am not much of a drinker, but I like tasting various types of alcohol.

On the other hand, on a more personal level, I have to say that I am in such luck to be a cinematographer. I think that it is the most wonderful vocation in the world, to be able to express yourself aesthetically and artistically through light and shadows. It is an art form which slowly, but surely disappears. I would like to accent the importance of the visual storytelling. I would like to accent the importance of light and shadows. To all the young cinematographers watching me, I would give them the advice to work on their art, you have to work on your craft. The thing is not in just showing a picture, the point is in the visual metaphors, in telling a story through composition, the camera movement, and the lights and shadows.

I wish good luck to everyone. I once again thank you for this award. As I already said – I can’t wait to see you in Macedonia”, said Kamiński.

The U.S. Ambassador, Kate Marie Byrnes said that it is worthy of respect that the legacy of the Manaki brothers and this festival is kept up.

“Mr. Kamiński, with your unrivaled excellency you have made some of the most striking and significant films in the last quarter of a century to be brought to life on the film screen. Mr. Popov, with your exceptional work you not only contribute to the affirmation of the national cinematography, but also contribute to the world film wealth. In the last couple of months, as we lived through the new reality of quarantines and curfews, the film art in all its different forms and which we perceive in different ways was actually what managed to keep us in some kind of normality, managed to steer away our thoughts, to keep us entertained and to give us hope. And actually, the people to whom this festival is dedicated – the cinematographers, are the heart of this art form. They are the people that stand behind the camera and the ones that bring to life the stories through which we can connect and share experiences”, said Ambassador Byrnes.

The director of the “Manaki Brothers”, Gena Teodosievska, spoke on behalf of the festival, saying that the next edition of the festival is already in preparations.

“We are preparing a high-quality programme to invite film artists who will be the real heroes of the new pictures, to be our guests and visitors of our whole country, the region, as it was in the last couple of years. I would like to thank everyone who loves the festival, who supports it, and who supports the film art, as much as it is interesting, as much as it is, maybe, complex, but you always try to enter its picture as thought you are part of it. I very much miss, and I believe we all do, those eight festival days full of adrenaline where we run from one cinema hall to another. I know that we will be telling our guests about this whole year on the next edition this following year, as we welcome them here in Bitola, and as they are running around from the Centre for Culture, to the Small Hall, to the Big Hall, to the Magaza, to the Patio, and to the new Cinema Manaki, which the Municipality of Bitola has, after all, managed to build. My dear friends, I would like to thank you very much that for this one hour, this precious hour for our small team, you have been with us”, said Teodosievska.

Since this summer, Bitola has one more cinema, a new cinema, on the spot once occupied by the cinema of the Manaki brothers, but the pandemic has stopped the promotion of the new Cinema Manaki. The attendees had the opportunity to see video material for this new culture and film spot in Bitola.

Maja Andonovska – Ilievski, as a presenter and host of the event, expressed gratitude to the MFPA, the Ministry for Culture, the Film Agency, the Municipality of Bitola, the Cinematheque of North Macedonia, Vardar Film, Institute and Museum Bitola, the Museum of Contemporary Art Skopje, and also gratitude to the friends of the festival, who in this tough year are also with it: IMAGO, McCann – Skopje, Komercijalna Banka, Tikves, Bozinovski watches and jewelry, Turkish Cultural Center – Yunus Emre, Halk Bank, Leitz, and Vertigo Visual.

This year, the Governing Board of the MFPA has made the decision that the ICFF “Manaki Brothers” will not be held in its real form. The basic motive for this decision is the saving of the health of the audience, the guests and the filmmakers in the unpredictable situation with the pandemic and the negative effect that this situation puts on us in all segments of our social life.