Camerimage Path Winds From Poland to the Oscar Race

Since 1993, Poland’s Camerimage film festival has followed a circular path, launching in the medieval city of Toruń, then moving the festivities first to Łódź and then to Bydgoszcz, before completing a full revolution with a return to its original, historic site (which is, fittingly enough, the birthplace of Copernicus).

Per the festival brass, the cinematography showcase’s peripatetic nature for the past three decades has above all stemmed from a simple desire to set down where roots could grow. “From the very beginning, our dream was to hold this festival in its own, proper location,” says Camerimage founder Marek Zydowicz. “To have a dedicated space that runs all year long, offering education, and showing films that represent our values. Because thus far, we’ve always been moving, looking for that best place.”

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Now aiming for a late 2025 opening, the festival’s flagship European Film Center project will keep its doors open all-year long to the industry professionals and providers who migrate to the weeklong festival that doubles as a trade show.

“Companies like Arri, Sony and Panasonic have been with us for more than 25 years,” says Zydowicz. “Some have come up with new ideas while visiting the festival; they’d hear of a problem and a couple years later return with a solution.”

The list of exhibitors has since expanded, with anamorphic lens provider Vantage now attending with new products to hawk, while LED gear house Cream Source has become an all the more recent addition – reflecting the growing importance of digital production. But not everyone has found a spot on the makeshift expo floor.

“Many companies would like to show their products but cannot due to lack of space,” says org office director Kazik Suwala. “That’s one of the reasons for our center, which will allow us to host more companies and to do so all year long. We’ll even have a small soundstage equipped with an LED wall for virtual production, because we want to have a place where people can come and explore new ideas and technologies. And we want to offer that for more than just one week in November.”

Tom Cruise plays Capt. Pete "Maverick" Mitchell in Top Gun: Maverick from Paramount Pictures, Skydance and Jerry Bruckheimer Films.

With that goal still a few years off, in terms of this year’s edition (which runs Nov. 12-19), Camerimage will tackle the art and industry of camerawork from every possible angle. Alongside a number of seminars and technical demonstrations, the festival will also host a talk from producer and Hollywood executive Bill Mechanic focusing on development and financing, a panel on workplace safety and shooting conditions, and a presentation from protean film editor Walter Murch reframing the captured image from the editor’s perspective.

On Nov. 14, Camerimage will partner with Ukraine’s Kinoko Film Festival for a presentation called Cinematographers at War, which will host at least nine Ukrainian filmmakers still based in their home country. “For now it looks like they will travel for 56 hours by bus to make it,” says Suwala. “This single, two-hour seminar will require the efforts of 40 people to make it happen; it will mean lots of car changes and getting permission on many different levels. We have to present a totally different angle, in this case of people affected by war.”

Carving a no doubt less arduous path to Poland, many Hollywood friendly DPs will also be on hand, sharing in an event that’s become an informal and quite literal precursor to the Oscar race. With awards hopefuls like “Tár,” “Elvis” and “Top Gun: Maverick” all screening in competition (and likely with both the directors and DPs on-site to present) this year’s edition will offer a snapshot of industry excitement, while simultaneously feeding new titles into the awards pipeline.

Since 2013, for instance, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has automatically shortlisted the winners of Camerimage’s documentary short and student short competitions, turning the Polish-based festival – wherever it called home at the time – into a direct launchpad into the U.S. industry.

“We are just very happy to be seen,” says Suwala. “It’s nice to the have this feeling that [our top prizes] are prophetic. That they can open a whole new path.”


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