I saw a documentary at the Rio International Film Festival last week that was not only beautiful and poetic, but also a strong argument for shooting “real” high definition with Zeiss DigiPrimes if I ever saw one.
The film is Havana – The New Art of Making Ruins (2006, German title: “Havana – Die Neue Kunst Ruinen Zu Bauen”) made by German filmmakers Florian Borchmeyer and Matthias Hentschler. It is currently making its run of festivals and will be shown on television in Germany, France, and I hope many other territories as well. Any broadcast buyer looking for programming that is compelling and in HD is sure to fall in love with this timely film (give the recent news events related to Raul and Fidel Castro).
Havana has many ruins and some of the buildings are inhabited. The filmmakers discover beauty and poetry in the ruins through interviews with five residents of the ruins in various states of decay. One of the residents interviewed, Ponte, is a writer who explains his philosophy of the ruins to explain the gradual collapse of the city and Cuba’s political system. The film captures the final moments of these buildings before they are renovated or simply collapse altogether.
The filmmakers knew that Havana – The New Art of Making Ruins needed the resolution and color depth that only a high-end HD camera could provide so they shot for five weeks with a Sony CineAlta HDCAM camera package that included a set of Zeiss DigiPrime lenses. These tools helped them express the sense of place by maintaining texture, color, and detail in the many wide shots and the wide frame interviews. A HDV or DV camera could not have delivered the same experience, and the sensual quality of the film is not only a big-screen phenomenon, the quality translates to the SD DVD version of the project. The filmmakers also made excellent use of ambient sound, weaving the sounds of the city into their beautiful architectural shots as well as the interviews.
Next stop on their festival tour is the Los Angeles Latino Int’l Film Festival, and it should be coming to a festival near you in the future.