The 66th Berlin International Film Festival that opens on 11th February 2016 will award an Honorary Golden Bear for lifetime achievement to German cinematographer Michael Ballhaus. He will also be offered homage with a retrospective of his films including THE COLOR OF MONEY (USA 1986, director: Martin Scorsese), WORKING GIRL (USA 1988 director: Mike Nichols), THE FABULOUS BAKER BOYS (USA 1989, director: Steve Kloves), GOODFELLAS (USA 1990, director: Martin Scorsese), BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA (USA 1992, director: Francis Ford Coppola).
Ballhaus is one of the world's most important cinematographers. Before spending 25 years working primarily in the USA, he established his reputation in Germany where he worked with, among others, auteur Rainer Werner Fassbinder, helping ‘Young German Cinema' achieve new artistic freedom. At the lens alongside great American directors such as Martin Scorsese, he had a decisive effect on the lighting and look of US moviemaking.
“We are honoring Michael Ballhaus as a director of photography who was a kindred talent to directors and whose oeuvre is unique,” says Berlinale Director Dieter Kosslick. That body of work comprises some 130 films for theatres and television, including 15 films with Fassbinder and seven with Scorsese alone, alongside many other legendary directors, including Peter Lilienthal, Wolfgang Petersen, Volker Schlöndorff, John Sayles, Robert Redford, James L. Brooks, Paul Newman, Mike Nichols, and Francis Ford Coppola.
Michael Ballhaus began as a still photographer and cameraman in television. He had already been Fassbinder's director of photography three times before taking his place at the eyepiece on MARTHA (West Germany 1974), a psycho-drama about a sado-masochistic marriage. During the shoot, Fassbinder and Ballhaus discussed how to film the first meeting of the future couple as a magical moment. Ballhaus suggested a semi-circular travelling shot due to the uneven ground at the location. Fassbinder countered with a challenge to have the camera make a full circuit of the pair. The resulting 360-degree dolly shot drew audiences into the scene's emotional intensity and was to become a Ballhaus trademark. But the cinematographer's intent and his genius is the way he comes up with visual language to suit each individual director and film.
The Berlin International Film Festival has a long and close history with Michael Ballhaus; he has been a frequent guest at the festival with his films.
(Rajesh Kumar Singh is Editorial Consultant for Festivals and Markets for BollywoodTrade.com. He is a filmmaker, critic and market analyst)
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