Camerimage Unveils Lineup Of Contenders For The Golden Frog
Anthony Hopkins (l) and Jonathan Pryce in a scene from "The Two Popes" (photo by Peter Mountain/courtesy of Netflix)
"Ford v Ferrari," "Joker," "Motherless Brooklyn," "The Painted Bird," "The Two Popes" are among features in the running for coveted honor
  • TORUN, Poland
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The EnergaCamerimage Festival has revealed its main competition lineup for the coveted Golden Frog--ranging alphabetically from Amundsen lensed by Pål Ulvik Rokseth to The Two Popes shot by César Charlone.

Also in the mix are such films as Bolden (shot by Neal Norton), Ford v. Ferrari (Phedon Papamichael), The Irishman (Rodrigo Prieto), Joker (Lawrence Sher), The Last Black Man In San Francisco (Adam Newport-Berra), Motherless Brooklyn (Dick Pope), Mr. Jones (Tomasz Naumiuk), Never Look Away (Caleb Deschanel), An Officer and a Spy (Pawel Edelman), The Painted Bird (Vladimir Smutny) and Shadow (Xiaoding Zhao).

Launched in 1993, the annual competition presents those feature films where the image significantly contributes to the way a story is told. The visual value of these films results from the cooperation between a director and a cinematographer and the unusual sensitivity of the author of a film image. The competition emphasizes the enormous contribution of the cinematographer to the film work. Films will be evaluated by an international jury who will choose and award the authors of the best cinematography. This year's Camerimage runs from Nov. 9-16.

Here’s a rundown of the films in the Camerimage Festival competition:

Nowadays, almost everyone has heard Roald Amundsen’s name at some point in their lives, even if many people would not be able to tell that he was the pioneering explorer who passed through the grizzly Northwest Passage and led the first expedition to the South Pole. The film does not focus on a precise recreation of the Norwegian’s famous journeys into the unknown, but instead tries to explore who Amundsen was before and after, and also what made him push the limits of what seemed possible at the turn of the 20th century. We observe many events from his life that shaped his character and physicality, but also broke him psychologically and made him a somewhat bitter man to the very end of his life. We get to know Amundsen both through his bitter-sweet relationship with his brother Leon, who financed his subsequent expeditions, as well as his romantic dealings with Canadian citizen Bess Magids. We see what kind of man he was in private, and how he changed and reacted to the dangers awaiting on the high seas when given the command of a ship.
Director: Espen Sandberg
Cinematographer: Pål Ulvik Rokseth
Produced by: Motion Blur Films
Country and year: Norway, 2019

Charles “Buddy” Bolden was a talented musician and cornetist who gained fame in New Orleans at the turn of the 20th century with his band. He presumably did not need notes, as he played from memory and from the heart, while inspiring a number of musicians to experiment and improvise – which later gave birth to jazz as we know it today. Bolden is a character surrounded by myth and mystery, because although his existence and talent were confirmed by many sources, there are no recordings of him playing. This film, however, is not about the legend, but a fragile human being at its heart, a man in love with his life and the magic of sound, who was unstoppable when on stage. Unfortunately, he was also unstoppable when it came to alcohol, drugs, and sex, which ultimately ended his promising career prematurely, to the extent that we find him in a mental institution, listening to the development of the music he pioneered. Today, Bolden is a legend, but one cannot forget about the human being hidden beneath all of the myths.
Director: Dan Pritzker
Cinematographer: Neal Norton
Produced by: King Bolden LLC
Country and year: USA, 2018

In the world of 1960s international car racing, there was only one champion: Ferrari. It was obvious in many areas, but the most prestigious one was the legendary 24-hour-long Le Mans race. The film starts with the Italian company’s dominance being challenged by Henry Ford II, the owner of the behemoth of the automotive industry – Ford Motor Company. He hires for that purpose a visionary and ex-racing driver, Carroll Shelby, who won Le Mans in 1959, the last person to do so before Ferrari’s reign. Shelby, in turn, goes to spirited and unpredictable, though seriously talented driver, Ken Miles to form a team, to be the best of the best. While being constantly pressured by the company’s management that wants to see some results and does not accept even a hint of failure, Shelby and Miles have to make professional and personal compromises to go the distance, but they never depart from their ground-breaking vision. That is how the Ford GT40 came into existence. Its first real test: 1966 Le Mans.
Director: James Mangold
Cinematographer: Phedon Papamichael
Produced by: Chernin Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox
Country and year: USA, 2019

If you need to kill someone – either quietly, without all the fuss and additional red tape, or making a statement out of it – there is no better man to do the job than Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran. An old-school hitman, Frank was trained in taking lives during the murderous Italian campaign of World War II, and after returning to the United States, he quickly rose in prominence in the eyes of some of organised crime’s most notorious families. Especially the Bufalino family, for which he killed a number of undesirable people, including his long-time friend Jimmy Hoffa, the legendary labour union leader whose disappearance had been, for decades, considered one of the greatest American mysteries. When Frank reaches old age and sits silently in a wheelchair, the only thing he can do is reflect on his colourful life as a criminal. The man wonders if he had really helped to shape the way the second half of the 20th century turned out, or if he was just another small cog in the machine that devoured his soul.
Director: Martin Scorsese
Cinematographer: Rodrigo Prieto
Produced by: Fábrica de Cine, Sikelia Productions, STX Entertainment, Tribeca Productions
Country and year: USA, 2019

Arthur Fleck’s life resembles an evolving nightmare. The man tries to earn money while dressed as a clown, but time and time again he comes up against society’s ostracism, including cases of physical violence. While he tries to laugh his misery out on stage, as he would like to become a successful stand-up comedian, the audience, for some reason, does not like his jokes. It sometimes happens that when Arthur takes the bus home, he loses control of his laughter, while people sitting next to him cannot comprehend that this is a medical condition that he has to battle every single day. His refuge is his apartment, where he lives with his dear mother, who strongly believes that her former employer, Thomas Wayne, will someday give them a helping hand. Arthur’s favourite part of the day is watching TV shows onto which he can project his hopes and dreams of becoming a funny guy, appreciated for what he really is. Cruel fate will give the poor man an opportunity to perform his wildest fantasies in real life, but then, laughing will be the last thing to do.
Director: Todd Phillips
Cinematographer: Lawrence Sher
Produced by: Creative Wealth Media Finance, DC Comics, DC Entertainment, Joint Effort, Warner Bros.
Country and year: USA, Canada, 2019

Huge cities never go to sleep but, what is more, they are in a constant flux, undergoing numerous social and political changes that make them sometimes unrecognisable, even to the very people who grew up and spent their dreams in them, and went on from idealistic teenagers to be cynical adults. The film tells the story of two Afro-American friends, Jimmie and Montgomery, who love San Francisco and know the city like the back of their hand, but they are not able to stop its changing into an irritating tourist attraction, nor the gentrification of the areas they once called home. When an unexpected incident makes Jimmie’s family home, owned for some time by white inhabitants, available on the market again, the boys build a charming utopia in there, just to preserve the memories of the city they knew and the world they were a part of. It is a utopia that cannot last long in the desensitised modern reality, but one that makes room for personal satisfaction, stemming from the beautiful and universal act of remembering.
Director: Joe Talbot
Cinematographer: Adam Newport-Berra
Produced by: A24 Films, Plan B Entertainment
Country and year: USA, 2019

Lionel Essrog is one of New York’s private eyes, on the one hand blessed with a brilliant memory, but on the other, cursed with Tourette syndrome which makes him a social recluse. His only real friend, as well as mentor, is one Frank Minna, for whom Lionel works. When Frank gets involved in some shady business deal with the sort of people whose faces always stay in the shadows, he quickly ends up six feet under. Lionel, distraught with grief, swears to find the killers, regardless of the price he will have to pay to do so. The man does not suspect that a clue he accidently discovers one day will lead him to uncover a shocking affair involving New York’s finest officials and the city’s éminence grise. The stakes are so high that, in the beginning, he does not even comprehend what they might be, but Lionel will have to stand up to the people who are capable of destroying the dreams and prospects of thousands of citizens just to satisfy their ambitions. The battle between the eccentric David and the ever-powerful Goliath begins.
Director: Edward Norton
Cinematographer: Dick Pope
Produced by: Class 5 Films, Warner Bros. Pictures
Country and year: USA, 2019

It is 1933, and traumatised Europe is still unable to return to its former, pre-World War I glory. Everyone looks in horror at Germany’s social and political upheavals, while the old monarchies see hope in the unprecedented economic expansion of the Soviet Union. However, Welsh journalist Gareth Jones predicts that both countries will be dangerous in years to come. Firstly, he uses deceit to interview the new German chancellor, Adolf Hitler, and then he sets his sight to Moscow, to question Stalin about his plans and promises. When he realises the interview will be impossible to organise, he begins to search for the truth on his own, peeling back the subsequent layers of the intricate Soviet illusion, designed to promote communism throughout the West. One day, he goes on a journey to Ukraine to observe the economic marvel with his own eyes, but what he experiences there is death, suffering, and hunger turning human beings into the literal living dead. When he tries to report all of this to the rest of the world, he is silenced by influential people, for whom the truth is only a matter of perspective.
Director: Agnieszka Holland
Cinematographer: Tomasz Naumiuk
Produced by: Film Produkcja Sp. z o.o.
Country and year: Poland, UK, Ukraine, 2019

Young Kurt’s education begins just before the hell of World War II breaks loose, when he goes to see an exhibition of art pieces considered dangerous and degenerate by the new rulers of the German world. Several months later, the boy witnesses the arrest of his older cousin Elizabeth, not being aware of the fact that thousands of others will join her in years to come. After the war, Kurt begins his formal education as a painter in Dresden, although he is soon forced to comply with the ideas of socialist realism in his work, promoted by the new rulers of his and others’ worlds. While struggling with outside pressure, he tries his best not to be yet another skilled craftsman with no voice of his own. He starts losing hope that it will ever change. The story of a young man’s troubled growing up to fulfil his creative potential, to be an artist who conveys ideas through his art, intertwined with a tale of social, political and humanist perturbations Germany endured first during the days of the Third Reich, and then after the division into East and West Germany.
Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Cinematographer: Caleb Deschanel
Produced by: Pergamon Film, Wiedemann & Berg Film GmbH & Co. KG
Country and year: Germany, Italy, 2018

An Officer and a Spy tells a story based on the life of Alfred Dreyfus, a French officer sentenced to life imprisonment for treason, and sent into exile. Soon after Dreyfus’ imprisonment, Georges Picquart, the new head of intelligence, discovers that the evidence against the convict has been fabricated. Opposing his superiors, Picquart decides to reveal the truth at all costs. What is at stake is not only Picquart’s brilliantly-started career, but also a great international scandal that would change the course of history. Roman Polański tells the story of one of the biggest scandals in history. The perfectly narrated intrigue shows a system in which the self-winding hate spiral begins to resemble current times. An Officer and a Spy is a film about how history repeats itself, and how one man fighting for justice against everyone else can change the course of history.
Director: Roman Polański
Cinematographer: Paweł Edelman
Produced by: Canal +, Eliseo Cinema, France 2, France 3, Gaumont, Legende Films, Rai Cinema
Country and year: France, Italy, 2019

A nameless boy without an identity (although some think he must be a Jew) wanders around unnamed villages of Eastern Europe, seeing with his own eyes the cruelty and horrors than no human being should ever be forced to see. The dehumanisation is so complete that it may seem that the film takes place sometime during the dark Middle Ages. What other way is there to explain ripping out people’s eyeballs, hideous psychosexual perversions, or setting live animals on fire? Nevertheless, the film is set in the 20th century, during World War II, and the boy experiences first-hand human beings’ capability to unleash sheer terror on each other, to the extent that it is difficult to decide what is more petrifying: watching silently through torture, paedophilia and killing for pleasure, or the attitude of brainless ignorance that most characters the boy meets on his way represent, along with the susceptibility to superstition and thinking that if someone believes in something different, he or she has to be some kind of hellish creature ready for annihilation.
Director: Václav Marhoul
Cinematographer: Vladimír Smutný
Produced by: Silver Screen
Country and year: Czech Republic, 2019

Two feuding kingdoms on the verge of yet another war. The only thing which is stopping their rulers from ordering bloodshed is the fear that this may finally be the last straw for their subjects. Two brave commanders fight until their last breath for the glory of their land, though their duel is unresolved. A warrior princess who can stand up to any man, Shakespearean intrigues, alliances and romances threatening to crumble the current status quo. And in the middle of all this, a proud and courageous warrior who was trained from his childhood as a protégé for his kingdom’s beloved commander. Now, after the dramatic events of the last few weeks, he has to fight for his master’s honour and the future of all of his land. However, when the bloodshed begins and everything that was said and done behind the scenes loses importance, there is no time to think and plan. There is only one’s instinct and the ability to survive. One thing is for certain: no one will live through the massacre to come out the other side without a scratch.
Director: Yimou Zhang
Cinematographer: Xiaoding Zhao
Produced by: LeVision Pictures, Shanghai Tencent Pictures Culture Media, Perfect Village Entertainment HK Limited
Country and year: Hong Kong, China, 2018

When two witty, intelligent, deeply religious old men, extremely different in their opinions and worldviews, begin to discuss the world they have to live in, as well as the future of the scandal-ridden Roman Catholic Church, their conversations could form the basis for many fascinating reflections. However, consider the fact that these men are the traditionalist Joseph Ratzinger, who is still Pope Benedict XVI in the film, and the progressive Argentinian cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who will become Pope Francis in a few years’ time, and it is quite obvious that their conversations become even more valuable and interesting. The film starts with a meeting during which Pope Benedict refuses Cardinal Bergoglio’s permission to retire, and then, throughout their subsequent conversations, he tries to find out if the man whose moral code he does not completely understand will be able to finish the work started centuries before by their predecessors, the work that he himself is unable to continue in any meaningful manner.
Director: Fernando Meirelles
Cinematographer: César Charlone
Produced by: Netflix
Country and year: UK, Italy, Argentina, USA, 2019


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