Sam Mendes paid tribute to the cinematographers he’s worked with and sent support to Ukraine when he was honoured over the weekend.
The ‘Skyfall’ director accepted the Special Krzysztof Kieslowski Award during the opening ceremony of the 30th Energa Camerimage international cinematography film festival in Poland but admitted it was “difficult to speak of celebration” after seeing images and hearing accounts from those in the war-torn country that were shown during the event.
He said: “I made a movie (‘1917’) with Roger [Deakins] about two young men caught up in a senseless war. The question I got asked over and over again is, ‘Is this relevant?’ I’m afraid to say, it is and it will always be. We stand with everyone in Ukraine.”
Sam then went on to acknowledge the cinematographers who he worked with, beginning with the late Conrad Hall, who won Oscars for his work on the director’s first two films, ‘American Beauty’ and ‘Road to Perdition’.
He said: “Conrad was my guide, and ever since Conrad, cinematographers always have been my guide.”
Of his partnership with Roger, he said their 15-year working relationship has ” given [him] more pleasure and more joy than any collaboration that [he] ever had in movies.”
Their latest collaboration is ‘Empire of Light’ and Sam said of the film: “On the wall of the cinema, right at the beginning of the film, is written, ‘Find Where Light in Darkness Lies.’ That is all of our jobs. It’s the work of the cinematographer, and it my great pleasure to have shed some tiny light in the dark.”
Elsewhere at the event, Alex Gibney also paid tribute to the people of Ukraine as he picked up the award for outstanding achievement in documentary filmmaking.
He said: “What’s so important about Camerimage, is the notion that cinematographers and filmmakers are doing their best to try to bring light to this world.
“The world can be a devastating and dangerous place. A lot of my films I’ve spent looking at abuses of power, but also, I think in a more important way, looking at the everyday heroes who rise up and oppose those abuses of power.
“So it was particularly important for me to be here this year, in Poland, when we’re so close to Ukraine, when people are fighting for liberty and life for us all.”
This week, Camerimage is supporting The OKO International Ethnographic Film Festival and KINOKO Film Festival, both Ukrainian events which have been displaced by the war with Russia.
OKO Festival founder Tetiana Sanieva tearfully said: “Please help Ukraine to win in every way possible. Our economy and way of life has stopped. We lose our dreams. … We lose beloved ones.”