Camerimage honors DPs of 'In Darkness,' 'A Separation,' 'Wuthering Heights'

Posted by · 1:44 pm · December 5th, 2011

The Camerimage festival, to my knowledge the only international film festival dedicated specifically to honoring the art of cinematography, rarely gets much attention on the awards beat, but it’s always an interesting event to follow. Based in Poland, the festival annually programs a selection of the year’s most remarkably photographed films, ranging from mainstream awards fare to exotic obscurities, with an international jury judging the DP’s work in each case. 

Naturally, awards follow. “The Piano” won the festival’s inaugural Golden Frog award in 1993, while subsequent winners include “Elizabeth,” “Road to Perdition,” “City of God,” “Pan’s Labyrinth,” “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” and “Slumdog Millionaire.”

But if all those were high-profile lensing showcases than went on to receive Oscar recognition in the same category, the awards can just as often go in unexpected directions.

Such was the case this year, when a jury that included cinematographers Dante Spinotti and Dick Pope, among others, had a strong slate of striking work to choose from, including Emmanuel Lubezki’s Oscar-tipped work on “The Tree of Life,” Manuel Alberto Claro for “Melancholia” (winner of the European Film Award this weekend), Sean Bobbitt for “Shame,” Seamus McGarvey for “We Need to Talk About Kevin” and Hoyte van Hoytema for “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.” That’d make a pretty dreamy cinematography lineup in any awards context, and yet not one of those films came away with one of the jury’s three prizes.

Instead, it was (as coincidence would have it) the two supposed frontrunners for the foreign-language Oscar that came out in front, with Poland’s own “In Darkness,” photographed by Jolanta Dylewska, winning the gold. I haven’t seen Agnieszka Holland’s Holocaust drama yet, so can’t comment on its visual merits, but I’m rather pleased to see “A Separation,” and its DP Mahmoud Kalari, taking the runner-up spot: it’s easy to overlook how intelligently shot this technically modest character drama is, but the way the camera negotiates space between its players is subtly brilliant.

The bronze award, meanwhile, went to my own personal winner in the category this year: Robbie Ryan’s breathtaking, nature-wed lensing of Andrea Arnold’s “Wuthering Heights,” which counter-intuitively boxes the soaring Yorkshire landscape into the Academy ratio, was also awarded at the Venice Film Festival, and deserves every accolade it gets. (US audiences will see what I’m talking about next year.)

The full list of winners and competition entries:

Golden Frog: “In Darkness” (Jolanta Dylewska)

Silver Frog: “A Separation” (Mahmoud Kalari)

Bronze Frog: “Wuthering Heights” (Robbie Ryan)

“Coriolanus” (Barry Ackroyd)

“Le Havre” (Timo Salminen)

“Melancholia” (Manuel Alberto Claro)

“The Mill and the Cross” (Lech J. Majewski and Adam Sikora)

“Nothing’s All Bad” (Eric Kress)

“The Prize” (Wojciech Staron)

“Rose” (Piotr Sobocinski Jr.)

“Shame” (Sean Bobbitt)

“Three” (Frank Griebe)

“Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” (Hoyte van Hoytema)

“The Tree of Life” (Emmanuel Lubezki)

“We Need to Talk About Kevin” (Seamus McGarvey)

For more views on movies, awards season and other pursuits, follow @GuyLodge on Twitter.

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