American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 91
tone, pacing and symbolism. We decided on a very realistic visual style. To me, cinematography is action and reaction; it’s about creating a visual language to support what’s on the page, and it’s about reacting to what’s in front of you (lighting, architecture, etc.). Afghanistan is an incredible place, bombedout, deteriorated and full of urban decay. Most of the architecture is monochromatic, but people’s clothes are very colorful. They wear a lot of red, green and yellow, and Sonia and I talked about the meanings of these colors. Having that understanding really helped me make quicker decisions. I shot the movie with a Red One (Build 20), Zeiss Superspeeds and an Angenieux HR 25-250mm zoom lens supplied by
“We’d hear explosions and find out that an RPG had gone off in a hotel three blocks away, or that the Taliban had just stormed into a place two miles from us.”
Birns & Sawyer in Hollywood. I opted for no filtration other than NDs, IR cutters and polas — no diffusion and no color filters. I often use warming filters or tobaccos, but they weren’t necessary in Afghanistan. Kabul has a really amazing and weird quality of light; it’s dusty and smoggy, so the light is already diffused. I did my sun chart and found that while we were there, the sun, at its highest point of the day, would be at only a 45-degree angle! Usually you’re chasing daylight to get that angle, but we’d
Top: An Afghan worker toils on a street strewn with rubble. Middle: Kabul’s locals added an invaluable sense of realism to the film. Bottom: Director Sonia Cole checks the framing as McFarland lines up a shot.