Camerimage Opens With Tribute To Former Academy President John Bailey, Adam Driver Accepting Acting Honor & Last Minute Willem Dafoe Appearance

A thick fog hung over Torun, Poland, this evening as the 31st edition of the city’s EnergaCamerimage Film Festival cruised into gear with a lengthy opening ceremony at the stylish Jordanki Culture Centre.

As always at Camerimage, proceedings on the eve began with a series of speeches from local politicians and dignitaries. These scripted interventions were followed by an emotional tribute to the late cinematographer and former Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president, John Bailey, who died Friday in Los Angeles. He was 81.

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As a cinematographer, Bailey’s credits included the Oscar Best Picture-winning Ordinary People and The Big Chill. Bailey’s resume also included Silverado, The Accidental Tourist, Groundhog Day, In the Line of Fire, As Good as It Gets, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, and Must Love Dogs across a five-decade career.

Camerimage festival director Marek Zydowicz led tributes to Bailey, telling the audience inside the Jordanki that it was “very difficult” for him to discuss Bailey, whom he had become close friends with thanks to his frequent visits to the festival over the years with his wife, Oscar-nominated editor Carol Littleton (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial). Zydowicz proceeded to introduce a black-and-white video clip that included a prolonged segment of a speech Bailey gave at Camerimage five years ago. During the speech, Bailey laid out his goal to internationalize the American Academy and forge close relationships with global film institutions such as Camerimage. A member of the Academy’s Cinematographers Branch since 1981, Bailey served 15 years as an Academy governor and two terms as president from 2017-2019. He was the first cinematographer to hold that position.

Elsewhere, the star power on the night inside the Jordanki was provided by Ferrari actor Adam Driver, who accepted the festival’s special award for an actor. In his acceptance speech,  Driver drew on his military background, wishing the Polish audience a happy Independence Day before informing them that today is also Veterans Day in the States. Driver ended his brief remarks by describing  Camerimage as a “cool” festival that truly honors the work of cinematographers. He rattled off the names of a few DoPs he worked with in the past, including Mandy Walker, who is head of this year’s Camerimage competition jury, Erik Messerschimidt, who shot his latest film, Ferrari, Robbie Ryan, and Rodrigo Prieto.

Ryan shot the Oscar-nominated Noah Baumbach feature Marriage Story with Driver. However, the Irish cinematographer is at Camerimage this year with Poor Things, his latest collaboration with Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos. With SAG’s strike against the Hollywood studios all but concluded, Ryan was joined onstage for a pre-screening introduction and a post-screening Q&A by actor Willem Dafoe, who was a last-minute addition to the Camerimage lineup. Dafoe stars alongside Emma Stone, Ramy Youssef, and Mark Ruffalo in the pic, which took the Golden Lion at Venice.

Dafoe told the Polish crowd that he was last at Camerimage in 2002, and he was happy to see the festival “flourishing” upon his return.

“We missed the actors a lot, so it’s really amazing to have one here on stage with me,” Ryan said, discussing the end of SAG’s strike.

Poor Things, which screens as part of the festival’s main cinematography-focused competition, was greeted with rapturous applause following the evening’s screening. Other pics playing in the main Camerimage competition include Pablo Larrain’s El Conde, Ridley Scott’s Napolean, Martin Scorsese’s Killers Of The Flower Moon, and Bradley Cooper’s Maestro.

In other tribute honors, producer Jon Kilik, whose credits include everything from the Hunger Games series to Spike Lee’s Malcolm X, picked up the Camerimage award for producer with unique visual sensitivity. Accepting the honorary gong, Kilik said in contemporary Hollywood the “producer credit has gotten a bit monetized” but he still had “a lot of pride” in his credits, which he has chosen through instinct and passion. British cinematographer Peter Biziou (Mississippi Burning) was also awarded the festival’s lifetime achievement award.

Camerimage runs until Nov 18.

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