Impressions from the IAGA and the IMAGO Awards 2019

by Lars Pettersson, FSF

Beginning on March 14th, Belgrade in Serbia was the picturesque backdrop to the 2019 edition of the IAGA and the IMAGO Awards Ceremony. These events stretched out over three consecutive days, and also allowed for a little time left over on sunday 17th for participants to check out the amazing city of Belgrade (see "a fun day out" link). Dozens of terrific photos covering the entire four days are available in the photo gallery (here) and readers are heartily advised to check them out, since they are not only great quality but will also give you an extensive overview of the event!

IMG 1594I myself, along with a handful of other delegates, arrived at Belgrade Nikola Tesla airport in the evening on the 14th and therefore missed the first day of the IAGA conference. Personally, I passed through customs with some trepidation since I’d been alerted to watch out for shady taxi drivers who would charge you an arm and a leg to drive you from the airport. But happily: no worries, it turns out. The IMAGO machinery is well-oiled and I’m met at the airport by the cheerful IMAGO hostess Tara Draskovic. There’s actually a small bunch of us arriving from different parts of the world at this time: Madrid, Brussels, etc, so after a brief wait for the various flights to land and for everyone to show up, it’s into the car and off to the hotel!

And we're all staying at the MAMA Shelter Hotel, which constantly assures us that ”MAMA loves you” in writing all over the place: on napkins, on towels -and even written with lipstick on the mirror in your room! This certainly gives us all a reassuring feeling that at least one of our parents holds us very dear. The hotel is very comfortable in every respect and housed in a futuristic, towering building featuring a large sprawling shopping mall on the ground floor.IMG 1455

After a good night’s sleep we join the IMAGO General Assembly Friday morning. The conference, and later also the Award ceremony, is held in the fascinating Jugoslovenska Kinoteka in Uzun Mirkova street. A silver statue of American actor Karl Malden adorns the entrance to the Kinoteka. Malden is standing on the steps of a streetcar (”…named Desire” of course) referencing the 1951 film for which he won the Academy Award as best Supporting Actor. Malden was of Bosnia-Herzegovinian Serb origin on his fathers side, and remained fluent in serbian until his death (at 97, no less). The Kinoteka building features a daring blend between modern, lofty expanses and wonderfully preserved original architectural details like the beams in the ceiling.

IMG 1451Unfortunately IMAGO president Paul René Roestad is forced to open today's proceedings by informing the delegates of the vicious terrorist attack targeting two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, that has just taken place! This obviously upsets the congregation, especially since one of our delegates, Mark Swadel NZCS ACS, represents the New Zealand society of cinematographers. Mark is not present at his time, but shows up a little later obviously shaken by the terrible news.

But the show must go on and there are a number of subjects to cover, as indicated by the itinerary which doesn’t say at what time the conference closes, but instead drily quips ”closes when finished!”
I will only offer my brief impressions of the proceedings on this second day of the IAGA here. The unanimous

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 IMAGO-DAY 1
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 Louis-Philippe Capelle and his daughter Naomi
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 Rolv Håan, FNF and Andreas Fischer Hansen, DFF,
share a joke

decision to reelect Paul René Roestad as President of the IAMGO for an additional three years is met by loud applause. Selecting the members of the board was more of a project, since there were seven candidates and only six openings. So, the delegates were invited to cast their vote by checking boxes next to the candidates names in a special ballot.
Counting the votes took a while, but the humorous spirit so frequently displayed during the IAGA is intact, and the results are proclaimed with the words ”we have white smoke from the election committee!” :-)
Daniele Nannuzzi AIC stepped down from the board of directors and Alex Lindén, FSF, was elected new member. Paul René Roestad thanked Juan Antonio Fernández AEC for having also volunteered for the board, and invited him to join the Technical Committee.

The delegates also voted ”yes” to making IMAGO an international umbrella organization for the cinematographer’s societies of the world. Louis Philippe Capelle gave us valuable information regarding what the international scene looks like, and it’s obvious IMAGO can play a very important role here, as in some countries -Morocco for instance- there are plenty of cinematographers but not even a national society for them!

After that, one by one the IMAGO Committees also give their annual reports on their work, and considering the day opened with a terrorist attack, we then strike a merrier note as Viola Laske announces that today is the birthday of Jost Vacano, BVK. Herr Vacano will be 85 years young today, and it’s suggested we all sing ”Happy Birthday” together! Which we all cheerfully do during a break a bit later during the day.

The ambitious project of selecting a new logotype for IMAGO is next on the programme, and this subject unintentionally evokes MG 5709 Klar mirth and laughter as one delegate suggests the members of IMAGO be presented with a selection of logos to chose from -to which Paul René Roestad quickly retorts ”that will be HELL!” But it turns out the delegate didn’t mean we commission 53 proposed new logotypes followed by a free-for-all discussion on visual qualities among cinematographers (Paul René’s vision of Hell :-) )! Finally it is decided that a choice of three suggestions for a new logotype be worked out, and the choice will be made from among these three.

Later that evening, IMAGO sponsor ROSCO invites us all to a local restaurant which proves to be very rustic and charming. This is a great opportunity to strike up conversations and I have a chat with Rolv Håan, FNF, whose masterclasses I’ve thoroughly enjoyed at the ODCC in Oslo over the years. Rolv recalls how he spent four days with Roger Deakins, OBE ASC BSC, a few years back when Deakins visited Scandinavia. Deakins had agreed to critique the works of a group of students at Westerdals skola, where Rolv teaches in cinematography, and to discuss each film shown for a few minutes. Well, not only did Roger Deakins decide to have lunch along with the students in their canteen, he then stayed all day until four in the afternoon chatting with the students and encouraging their efforts!

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Katrin Richthofer IMAGO General Manager
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The Danish Guys
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Tony Costa in Stand-Up Mode


Rolv is a seasoned pro when it comes to moderating masterclasses with ’Heavyweight Cinematographers’ and he lets me in on his secret formula: the night before the masterclass he invites his guest to a sumptuous dinner at a nice restaurant, and they discuss anything but the cinematographer’s ”oeuvre”. Next day, before the audience, the invited cinematographer is now supremely relaxed in Rolv’s presence and the masterclass works like a charm.

Perhaps owing to -though one can’t be absolutely sure- the free bar at the wonderful ROSCO party, I slept like a baby. It seems to me you would need nerves of steel to invite this festive bunch -complete with Scandinavians and Aussies!- to a party with a drink-all-you-can-hold-free-bar, but I spoke to the ROSCO representative the day after and he explained he had kept close tabs on the bartenders, so there was never any risk of breaking his budget.

The Saturday programme was wonderful. First a sightseeing bus tour through Belgrade with a witty and fast-talking guide. We learn the name Belgrade means ”The White City”, and allegedly it was so named because of all the magnificent marble buildings scattered throughout this fascinating metropolis, which close to 2 million people now call home. Our guide also displays a quick wit: one fashionable area with a lot of chic cafés is known as ”silicon Valley” and our guide explains this has nothing to do with IT companies centering there, but rather with the fact that the women frequenting these chic cafés have usually augmented their already considerable beauty with a little extra cosmetic surgery.

Then it’s back to the hotel for lunch and dressing up for the evening’s grand occasion: the IMAGO Awards! Everyone dresses up in black dinner jackets and we look like a squadron of Bible salesmen -or penguins. ”Or waiters”, quips Ron Johansen, ACS, as we march onward to the IMAGO Awards at the Kinoteka.

Predrag Bambic, SAS, opens the Awards Ceremony with a brief speech, but then there’s a glitch in the otherwise flawless IMAGO planning! Due to some miscommunication, Rasa Bukvic and Jelena Gavrilovic, the host and hostess that are going to carry the show aren’t actually in the room. An awkward second or two passes, but then Tony Costa swiftly enters the stage in whirlwind

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Greig Fraser, ACS ASC, with Brazilian
cinematographer Adolpho Veloso, ABC, who won
the Documentary Award
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Ed Lachman ASC 

fashion and performs a nice save, by telling a joke about a man who’s asked what he’d like the mourners at his funeral to say in front of his open casket! Turns out, he’s not interested in them praising his accomplishments, but rather he’d like them to shout ”look, he’s moving!” Tony brings down the house with this one, and by now the host and hostess are in place and everything’s on the up and up on stage, so now the ceremonies can begin!

And the ceremony takes us on a rollercoaster of emotions, as we are entertained, awed, moved, surprised -and suddenly find ourselves laughing out loud! Again, who won which award can be found here and we also encourage the reader to check out the aforementioned photo gallery, plus there’s also video coverage of the entire ceremony HERE.
Here are a handful of the indisputable high spots though. Nigel Walters BSC, was noticeably moved as he delivered a stirring introductory address to the audience and handed over the award for Extraordinary Contribution to the Art of Cinematography to The Manaki Brothers International Cinematographer’s Festival. The Manaki Festival, which this year celebrates it’s 40th anniversary, is represented here tonight by its Directors, Gena Teodosievska and Blagoja Kunovski and they both held heartwarming speeches as they accepted he award.
At about the half-time mark, an enormously rousing musical interlude featuring singer Bilja Krstic backed up by Bistrik -a group of Serbian musicians performing in a traditional vein- had the whole house clapping their hands and rocking the seats!
Ed Lachman being presented with his Lifetime Achievement award by ARRI’s Milan Krsljanin was another unquestionable highlight of the awards ceremony. Incidentally, Lachman can’t have had a dull moment during the evening, as everyone constantly wanted to congratulate him and share a few words with him.

Then, unexpectedly, the moment when the last award has been handed over and everyone is getting ready to rise from their seats -a big brass band at least twenty men strong enter the auditorium from the back door, making a deafening racket and turning the whole place into a carnival!

Ears ringing from the brass band, we then head for a wonderful dinner at The Aero Club, situated right across the street from the Kinoteka, and the festivities here last until the wee hours in the morning. Great opportunity here for those just starting out to mingle and converse with the seasoned pros. Greig Fraser, ACS ASC is especially generous with his time in this respect. We learned at the Vienna INSPIRATION Masterclass that Greig is a firm believer in Karma, so it makes sense that he shares his knowledge and experience so generously -for my money, Greig’s Karma is so strong by now, he’s probably bulletproof. ;-)

Lars Pettersson, FSF

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