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HomeAwardsContender: Emmanuel Lubezki-DP-Children of Men

Contender: Emmanuel Lubezki-DP-Children of Men

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In Children of Men, Oscar-nominated director of photography Emmanuel Lubezki, ASC, AMC employed a nervous, edgy style of cinematography reminiscent of 1960s cinema verite to visually capture the provocative sci-fi parable about a nihilistic and violent world in 2027 where no child has been born for nearly two decades until one woman is discovered to be pregnant.Director Alfonso Cuarón “wanted the camera to be curious, constantly moving and probing, serving to put the viewer in the middle of the action, and not always following the main characters,” says the DP, universally called Chivo by his friends and colleagues. “It’s what Alfonso and I describe as capturing ‘the state of things’—how the world looks at that point—the political, socio-economic context of the film. We wanted to show that so we didn’t have to explain it so much with words.”Lubezki’s Academy Award nomination for Children of Men is his fourth. He was nominated last year for his work on director Terrence Malick’s The New World. Prior to that he got nods for director Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow and The Little Princess, directed by Cuarón. And this is Lubezki’s fourth collaboration with Cuarón. Both were born in Mexico City and are leading figures in the country’s efflorescence of filmmaking talent that is making a big impact on global cinema.Most of Children of Men is shot with a single handheld camera. The film also features some stunning documentary-length takes. Lubezki, in particular, gives credit to two British brothers, George Richmond who operated handheld for a span of 16 weeks and Jonathan ‘Chunky’ Richmond, who served as focus puller.In a continuous nine-minute segment towards the end of the film, worthy of Orson Welles, the camera follows the main character, played by Clive Owen, as he is separated from the pregnant woman who he’s shepherding to safety, down embattled streets, in and out of structures being shelled and through the floors and stairs of one crumbing building where he finds the woman hiding in a room. The camera then looks out the window and takes in the tumult in the street below.Four days of intense prep were required involving the cast, extras, stuntmen, visual effects people and the camera department. “If one element went wrong then the shot would be destroyed, so it took a lot of concentration and very good planning,” says Lubezki. “It was very stressful but it worked.” Ultimately, the scene required three takes. And while there appear to be no cuts, the DP admits there’s one imperceptible digital edit.The look of the movie, reflecting the bleak subject matter, is gritty and desaturated in color. “The idea was to keep the movie looking very natural, so I tried not to use any movie lighting to enhance or to add more light,” explains Lubezki. Exteriors were unlit and, for the most part, interiors were illuminated with source lighting.Children of Men was filmed during the winter in England, where the story is set. The downside was the days were very short “so we only had enough light in the middle of the day and that made every minute count,” he says. “On the plus side, there weren’t too many bright or sunny days.” The film was shot in Super 35mm using spherical lenses to make it easier to shoot in lowlight situations.Lately, says Lubezki, he has been recuperating from the efforts of Children of Men, working on commercials, and spending time with his family in Los Angeles—and “looking for another interesting project.” 2007: Nominated, Academy Award for best achievement in cinematography, Children of Men; Nominated, American Society of Cinematographers Award for outstanding achievement in cinematography for a theatrical release, Children of Men; Nominated, BAFTA Film Award for best cinematography, Children of Men. 2006: Nominated, Academy Award for best achievement in cinematography, The New World; Won, Golden Osella at the Venice Film Festival for outstanding technical contribution, Children of Men. 2005: Nominated, Golden Satellite Award for best cinematography, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. 2000: Nominated, Academy Award for best achievement in cinematography, Sleepy Hollow; Nominated, ASC Award for outstanding achievement in cinematography for a theatrical release, Sleepy Hollow; Won, Golden Satellite Award for best cinematography, Sleepy Hollow. 1996: Nominated, Academy Award for best achievement in cinematography, A Little Princess.

Written by Jack Egan

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