Big Bear Lake International Film Festival (BBLIFF),

Southern California Event Honors Cinematographer Jack Cardiff

By: - Sep 20, 2012

Bear Bear

It can only happen in Southern California.  Where else can one be toasting in triple digits by the pool in Palm Springs at noon, and by 1:30 pm be enjoying 70’s and 80’s temps in the Alpine setting of the Big Bear Lake Resort area at 7000 ft.?  That’s one of reasons for the success of the Big Bear Lake International Film Festival (BBLIFF), along with quality programming and support from the nearby Hollywood film community.

The festival, which MovieMaker magazine has called “one of the Top 25 Festivals worth the entry fee” keeps getting bigger, better, and more prestigious within movie-savvy circles.  It’s been a personal favorite of mine for a couple of reasons.  First, it’s one of a few festivals that recognizes and honors the creative effort and input of the Cinematographer.  Without this expert creative artist, no film would appear on a movie screen.  BBLIFF has been featuring the work and artistry of the world’s finest cinematographers for years.

The culmination of this ongoing recognition (now in it’s 13th year) is the presentation of their Lifetime Achievement Award for Cinematography.  This year the 2012 honoree was the late, great, English cameraman and Director of Photography, Jack Cardiff.

Scottish writer/producer/director Craig McCall, whose 13-year film and interview odyssey documenting the life of Jack Cardiff, accepted the posthumous honor on behalf of Cardiff’s family.  McCall’s film entitled “Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff”, became the basis for the prestigious award which was presented to McCall by Monika Skerbelis, Festival Co-President of the Board and Film Programming Director, with a minor assist from yours truly, who offered brief remarks from the movie critic’s POV on Cardiff’s impressive list of films.

Cardiff’s immense canon – more than 73 movies, TV series, and documentaries between 1935 and 2007 covers every important Technicolor movie beginning in the 1940’s and 50’s i.e. “A Matter of Life and Death”,  “The Red Shoes”, and “Black Narcissus”, all directed by the legendary English filmmaker Michael Powell, to the films of John Huston namely “The African Queen”, to Alfred Hitchcock and “Under Capricorn” starring Ingrid Bergman.  Jack was also a favorite cameraman of director Richard Fleischer filming two movies for Fleischer: “The Vikings”, starring Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, and Ernest Borgnine, and “Conan the Destroyer”, starring California’s former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

He was the favorite cinematographer of some of the world’s most beautiful women too.  Marilyn Monroe, Sofia Loren, Ava Gardner, Audrey Hepburn, Marlene Dietrich, Anita Ekberg, Leslie Caron, and the list goes on and on, praised Jack for making them look so beautiful on the silver screen.  Male stars like Humphrey Bogart, Kirk Douglas, and Charlton Heston, also appreciated the speed and ingenuity that Cardiff brought to the set on every motion picture he photographed.  All in all, he spent an unbelievable nine decades in the movie business.   Jack Cardiff was, and still is, arguably the greatest color cinematographer who ever peered through a camera lens.     

The second reason this festival is high on my list of film festivals (there are more than 4000 festivals worldwide) to attend is their continual honoring of a Lifetime Achievement Award for Screenwriting.  Sandy Steers, Festival Co-President and Screenwriting Competition Director presented Academy Award screenwriter Tom Schulman, the Big Bear Lake International Film Festival Lifetime Achievement Award for Screenwriting.

Screenwriting is another discipline that fuels the creative arts machine.  As they say, “… In the beginning was the word”.  Blank pages like blank canvases remain just that – blank, unless the creative urge and talent begin to kick in.

Tom Schulman is a most deserving honoree.  He became an Academy Award winning screenwriter with his first effort “Dead Poets Society”, starring Robin Williams.  He penned “What About Bob”, the comedy starring Richard Dreyfuss and Bill Murray.  He authored “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”, with Rick Moranis, as well as screenplays for “Medicine Man”, “Holy Man”, and “Welcome to Mooseport”.

In addition to the Lifetime Achievement Award Honorees, the festival screened over 100 films, held Q & A’s, hosted seminars, panel discussions with Industry professionals, and presented awards to student filmmakers – the creative artists of the future.  It was a highly successful and affordable Festival.

If you find yourself in Southern California (the LA or Palm Springs area) in mid-September, plan on attending the 2013 Big Bear International Film Festival.  You won’t be disappointed.  We’re not all just oranges out here in California, despite what Fred Allen, the old New York radio actor used to say about “TinselTown”.  It was Allen’s way of needling his old friend Jack Benny. Allen’s actual line was “California is a great place to live, if you happen to be an orange”.   And, it’s not too bad even if one is not an orange.

 Special to Berkshire Fine Arts by Jack Lyons