by Anne-Marie Jacir
With Suheir Hammad, Saleh Bakri, Ryad Dias
Sortie : 13 novembre 2008
Since then he has been the cinematographer of several feature films, often working alongside first-time directors (as in Dam by Raphael Jacoulot or One Dollar Curry by Vinjay Singh ...). Salt of This Sea, featured in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard in 2008, is another first film, that of a former editor, Anne-Marie Jacir.
Can you describe your collaboration with the director ?
Anne-Marie Jacir showed me her short films, which all displayed a very strong visual world, and a real sense of framing (which she did herself). One of these, Like Twenty Impossible, was even a kind of model for the feature film project. A little story that takes place entirely at an Israeli check-point, and whose approach to mise en scène was very close to the upcoming film.
For example, in Salt of This Sea, one of my favorite sequences takes place in a similar setting, and mixes shots from a set with a reportage of footage from a real check point.
Her main directorial decision was to shoot the entire story with a handheld camera. A camera that is very free, in a spirit similar to her shorts, which were all filmed with a DV camera, like a camera stylo (pen camera) that one takes with one everywhere, filming in a fairly instinctive way.
On Salt of This Sea, we had to adapt to Super 16
Voir Super 16 mm dans l’index
mm equipment, which is heavier and more constraining than DV. We shot for 45 days between May and June of 2007.
What difficulties did you encounter on location ?
Everything is very difficult in Israel and Palestine. You can’t really shoot a film normally. Logistics are a real nightmare, be it for transporting equipment or people. Permits are sometimes quite restrictive or arbitrarily amended... All movement is constantly monitored by checkpoints, we were confronted with authorization problems for the crew or even for the actors. For example Saleh Bakri, the main Palestinian actor who resides in Jerusalem, officially did not have the right to travel to Ramallah...
To be able to gather the accessories, the actors, the set and the equipment was a constant miracle, often requiring long hours of waiting, to the detriment of the directing and cinematography... That is why I was rarely able to shoot during the best hours for natural light. Even if I was sometimes ready at seven in the morning, we would end up shooting at 1 PM, the worst time for a cinematographer !
What equipment did you use ?
Apart from a few set-ups on a car, the grip was reduced to a bare minimum. As for lighting, I did have a list that included a series of K5600
Voir K 5600 dans l’index
Lighting 400 and 800W Jokers for big sources, which I would place, for example, outside locations so as to have light streaming in through the window (as in the restaurant sequence). In addition I used a range of fixtures with Soft Light fluorescent tubes, and Nano Lucioles
Voir Maluna Lucioles dans l’index
Voir Maluna Lucioles dans l’index
I used three different camera films, depending on the light (Kodak
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50D, 250D and 5218
Voir Kodak VISION2 500T dans l’index
500T) without ever using a filter, in order to retain a rough image to go with the documentary style that we gave the film. Almost everything was shot with fast Zeiss lenses, and a zoom for a few shots.
And post ?
Because of its small budget and a financing involving a dozen co-producers, Salt of This Sea was a film that concluded in a kind of painful way. This was especially true of post, because each step involved a service provider located in a different country... The development took place in Switzerland at Schwarzfilm, color timing in Berlin, the mix in Amsterdam, the sound editing in Belgium and the final film out in Munich... It is not always easy to have all these people work together with consistent methods !
As far as rushes, for example, it went extraordinarily well. Even if we were very apprehensive about sending film cans from Tel Aviv to Berne (via Italy), with all the security and X-ray issues that that entails, we had no problems. After the first two weeks the DVD footage would appear with the regularity of a Swiss watch !
The trouble started afterwards, notably in the digital blow-up workflow. I was unable to get the image of my rushes which had been telecined and transferred to DVD with perfect color timing. After conforming the negative, a 2K scan, and DI, we began to see bizarre colors appear, magenta or green colors in the whites and blacks of the image... In other words, a lot of defects that I have never seen in a workflow with DI from a 35mm negative. From that point of view, I would have much preferred a classical film optical blow-up, but unfortunately the labs are all abandoning this technique. Indeed Schwarzfilm has, and they threw in the towel between the beginning and the end of filming.
All the same, are there not benefits to a digital blow-up ?
Yes, the image sharpness is often better than with an optical workflow because you avoid an intermediate generation. In DI you can also work in parts of the frame, which is impossible to do photochemically.
But on balance for this film, I think I would have much preferred to have a slightly less sharp image, with richer and more natural colors in projection, without having to go through the very complicated artificial compensations of the DI console...
(Interviewed for the AFC by François Reumont translated by Benjamin B
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Salt of this Sea
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