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Breaking The Curse

Director of photography Taina Galis braves the unforgiving Moroccan sun to film Fujifilm Shorts Best Film winner The Curse.

“It was real and unreal, a true story and also a fable,” says director of photography Taina Galis about the winner of Best Film for Fujifilm Shorts 2012, The Curse. “I'd worked with writer/director Fyzal Boulifa on his two previous films, Whore and Burn My Body, as cinematographer and co-editor. Like with those, the cast for The Curse was non-professional, Fyzal creating a situation that explicitly requires both control and spontaneity. It's an excellent way to work. And it was set in Morocco, where the light is magnificent!”

The Curse is the story of Fatine, a young woman hounded by a group of young children when she tries to return to her village because of her affair with an older man. A deeply personal tale, Galis first needed to understand the atmosphere of Fatine's world, to become intimate with her sense of time and space.

“It was arid, dusty, an unrelenting sun, but the characters are vital and proud,” she explains. “Fyzal wanted the camera to be direct and bold, like a child. The compositions are simple, a bit like a picture book. The characters are stuck in the landscape. At times, the backgrounds to the characters are made disorientating, discontinuous, so that time and space are unreal and disconcerting. So, I placed the shadows at middle grey, so that the landscape was exposing. There was nowhere to hide.”

To capture this stark backdrop but also retain its parched beauty, Galis selected 16mm Fujifilm Eterna 400T. “We wanted to use film even though working with first-time child actors meant a high shooting ratio,” she says. “We wanted to create an image that was both immediate and mythical. I find the Eterna 400T the most beautiful film stock of all. Its low contrast is so great - especially on skin tones - that we chose it over the more finely grained stocks that the bright sunlight would have allowed. Film stock can have a tangible quality. The grain of the 16mm 400T brought out the texture of the rough landscape, which emphasized how Fatine is trapped in her environment. It meant we could use one film stock for the whole film - even to shoot the one interior scene without electrical lights - and maximise our shooting ratio.

“Much of the story is told through the main character's movement,” she continues. “Many of the moving shots were handheld, operated beautifully by Annette Remler, and I chose the camera best suited for that: the Aaton XTR prod, with Zeiss Superspeeds. The combination captured the soft colours of the costumes and rural landscape really well. Subtle adjustments were made in the digital intermediate by colourist Jason Moffat to iron out fluctuations in weather conditions and time of day, and to streamline the colour palette. There are only a few colours in The Curse. They are intended to be fresh and light, somewhere between Fra Angelico paintings and candy!”

The consistent visual palette of the final is even more impressive when you realise where it was originally conceived. “The film is very close to the original storyboards, which were drawn in dark London cafes!” Galis smiles.

Galis began pursuing cinematography in her 20s, assisting and doing a one-year course at FAMU (Film and TV School of Academy of Performing Arts in Prague), where she shot five shorts on film. One of those films, Minerva, won the first London International Creative Competition. “I've shot many shorts, including A Cuillin Rising, directed by Catriona MacInnes, and three feature films - Fulll Firearms by Emily Wardill, A Wedding Most Strange, directed by Trevor Garlick, and the documentary Prisoner of War: The Story of the Real Rambo, from Andrea Luka Zimmerman,” she says. Galis was also selected for prestigious industry mentoring programme, Guiding Lights.  “I had the luck to be mentored by [David Cronenberg's regular DP and the cinematographer of The Empire Strikes Back] Peter Suschitzky,” she says.

With that kind of mentor and an award-winning short now added to her ever-growing portfolio, a cinematic career doesn't get more real than that.

- The Curse: Winner of the Illy Prize for Best Short Film, Directors' Fortnight, Cannes Film Festival 2012 . Winner of Best Film, Fujifilm shorts 2012. Screened in Sarajevo, Bucharest, Sao Paolo
- For more on Taina Galis, see
- To request a free limited edition DVD copy of all 10 nominated short films for Fujifilm Shorts 2012, please email Jerry Deeney at Fujifilm Motion Picture:

Taina Galis   |   The Curse   |   Fujicolor ETERNA 400T   |  

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