Cinematographer John Bailey Remembered During Camerimage Opening Ceremony

There was an emotional start to the 31st EnergaCamerimage cinematography film festival as news spread that John Bailey — the cinematographer behind films such as Ordinary People, The Big Chill and As Good As It Gets, and former president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences — died Friday at age 81.

During Saturday’s opening ceremony, festival director Marek Żydowicz gave a heartfelt tribute to the DP as he opened Camerimage, which is held annually in Toruń, Poland. “It is very difficult for me to talk about it,” he said, introducing a black-and-while clip featuring portions of Bailey’s 2019 speech when he accepted the Camerimage Lifetime Achievement Award. Bailey and his wife, Oscar-nominated editor Carol Littleton, had attended the festival on multiple occasions. Żydowicz also emphasized the bond between Camerimage and the Motion Picture Academy that Bailey helped to strengthen. He said, “John, you will forever be in our hearts.”

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Oscar-nominated cinematographer Lawrence Sher also paid tribute to Bailey when he took the stage, adding, “as we all know, life is precious, hug each other.”

During the ceremony, Adam Driver accepted the special award for an actor. He called Camerimage a “cool” festival that “really highlights cinematographers.” He recognized some of those that he has worked with that will be in attendance this week, among them Mandy Walker, Rodrigo Prieto, Salvatore Totino, Robbie Ryan, and Erik Messerschimidt — the DP of his latest film, Ferrari, which will unspool this week as part of the main competition.

British cinematographer Peter Biziou received a standing ovation as received the Lifetime Achievement Award. The DP — who lensed films including Mississippi Burning, for which he was Oscar- and BAFTA-nominated, The Truman Show and In The Name of the Father — remembered learning at an early age that “we can make magic” with film, and he stated that he shares the award with his dedicated crews.

Jon Kilik — whose string of producing credits includes Babel, for which he earned a best picture Oscar nom, The Hunger Games and Malcolm X — said he was grateful for the collaborations he has shared with cinematographers, as he accepted the award for a producer with unique visual sensitivity. He admitted, “It’s a time now where I think the producer credit has gotten a bit monetized; it’s transactional. … [But] it’s something I really have a lot of pride in.”

The Brothers Quay received the award for directors with unique visual sensitivity.

Saturday is Poland’s National Independence Day, which was recognized during the ceremony. Toruń Mayor Michał Zaleski also expressed his hopes for peace amid world events.

Following the ceremony, the festival screened Poor Things as its opening night film, which is also in this week’s main competition. With the SAG-AFTRA strike over, Willem Defoe was on hand to join cinematographer Robbie Ryan for a Q&A following the screening.

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