Plus Camerimage 2013, the impressions of a judge

By Denis Lenoir, AFC, ASC

par Denis Lenoir La Lettre AFC n°238

[English] [français]

In my hotel room last night, before my last night spent in Bygdoszcz, coming home from the last party of the 23rd annual Camerimage event, I suddenly understood that for over thirty years, I have been leading a secret existence, a life that I can only discuss with other cinematographers, the only people who are capable of understanding it because they lead the same double life.

This though was slightly tinged with sadness, because I would sometimes like to be able to share this life with wife, with my adult children, and other people to whom I am close. I have tried, but to no avail : this life is not capable of being shared.
The reason why a few of us created the AFC is so that we wouldn’t be constantly alone. It is because I spent a week living twelve hours a day alongside my seven fellow judges, exchanging memories, talking shop, directors, complimenting twenty other cinematographers and equipment manufacturers that I met for the first time or gladly saw again (hi Didier D.!), that last night I realized that this was a secret life, at the very moment that I was preparing to return to the real world in which a part of my identity is undercover.

We were eight judges : Adam Holender, ASC, 76 years old, raised in a Siberian labour camp until the age of 6, studied at Łódź with Polanski, cinematographer of films such as Midnight Cowboy and The Panic in Needle Park, a man with a very sharp mind ; Jeffrey Kimball, ASC, a delightful Texan (I know it’s an oxymoron), and the cinematographer of Top Gun ; Ed Lachman, ASC, and Tom Stern, ASC, AFC, whose work we know so well ; Timo Salminen, a Finnish man who lives in Lisbon, Kaurismäki’s cinematographer, with whom I often talked during the ritual lunches over which the eight of us shared our impressions of the films we’d just seen and conniving glances when we realized that we were often of the same opinion, for or against, a film ; Frantz Lutzig (Don’t Come Knocking) ; and lastly Todd McCarthy, the great critic. Not once did any of us try to impress the others, not once did any of us raise his voice, not once even did one of us so much as cut off another while speaking…it was an ideal jury.

There were fourteen films in competition and, without exaggeration, I think that a third of them had no place being there. I think this is the Festival’s weakness. Four of them were in black and white, which I thought was a lot because it seems to me that black and white is often a cheap and simple way to stick an “art” label on a film.
As the days went by and the films followed one another, it quickly became apparent that it was going to be impossible to separate the photography-or the image of the film-from the film itself, which seemed to be a revelation for some. After the last film was screened, we met for the last time and easily agreed on five films that deserved our consideration.
We voted again and agreed on three, which received awards. Sorting them out was more difficult. I was in the minority and gave in to the majority. Ironically, the local television station interviewed me after the ceremony and I passionately and eloquently defended the film that I wouldn’t have chosen on my own. Perhaps it was with a dose of perversity that I fulfilled what I believed was my duty as a judge.

Philippe Ros, Tom Stern, and Bruno Delbonnel were the only AFC members present with me, and it was really too few. I think that in the future we must try to get more invitations to be judges on different juries, especially since our total absence from Imago has removed the little bit of international visibility we formerly had. At this festival, there was a commemoration of Roger Hubert with six Carné films screened : why didn’t we know this long in advance ?
Why wasn’t this commemoration presented by one of us ? These are obviously rhetorical questions but are intended to make us think of ways to participate more greatly in the future. Happily, some of our associates were present, and their stands were meeting points. Marc Galerne of K5600 Lighting and Jacques Delacoux of Transvideo had invited six students from Louis-Lumière and six from La fémis to come enjoy Camerimage. I had occasion to meet these students, albeit too briefly, at a dinner organized so that they could meet students from Łódź.

(Were also in attendence, save error or omission : Natasza Chroscicki, Arri ; Tommaso Vergallo and Didier Dekeyser, Digimage ; Olivier Affre and Patrick Leplat, Panavision Alga ; Jean-Yves Le Poulain, Thales Angénieux ; Benjamin B., AFC consulting member.
Image above, the Opera Nova of Bygdoszcz)