National Geographic photographer and Sony Artisan Ira Block has primarily worked as a travel photographer, roaming the world and documenting its happenings through stills. The lack of travel throughout the pandemic has had him looking for important projects close to home, and he found a great story through his wife’s involvement in the sport of fencing and its community. The story is showcased in his new short film, “Zaheer,” which follows Zaheer Booth and his journey as a fencer trying to make the U.S. Fencing Team. Block used the Sony Xperia 5 II to document the footage used to tell Booth’s story.
A new film by Ira Block with the Sony Xperia 5 II follows Zaheer Booth and his journey as a fencer trying to make the U.S. Fencing Team.
The project was outside of Block’s typical work as a travel photographer, but using the Xperia 5 II gave him just enough control to create the film he wanted. “I’m not really a filmmaker,” says Block. “I’ve directed some films and I know fencing because of my wife, but I’ve always felt that if you’re going to be the camera person on a film then you should be experienced and I am not. But with the Xperia 5 II, there aren’t as many controls and options you would have on a full video camera so I don’t have to worry about all of that.”
The unobtrusive nature of the Xperia was an advantage for Block as he filmed in the tight quarters of a fencing club. The camera's small form factor also helped him capture Booth's moments out in New York City, like footage of Booth riding the subway to training. Block also used Cinema Pro on the smartphone, giving him full control of the color presets and other manual settings he’s used to from his Sony Alpha system.
“I used Cinema Pro and had my ISO and colors set from what I know from my Sony Alpha cameras. It was pretty easy. There was a huge advantage of being able to shoot in slow motion to give you the feeling of the athleticism in fencing.”
Throughout the film Block shows Booth's perseverence as a Black athlete and his desire to make the sport of fencing more accessible – a story Block really wanted to tell. "I wanted to show all that Booth has given to fencing and what it's given to him. He wants other young people to get into fencing because of the opportunities to which it can lead."
Block encourages others to find the stories that are important to them and to tell them because it's never been easier. “Not being a diehard filmmaker but wanting to make a film, it was a nice experience to use the Sony Xperia 5 II,” says Block. “It opens things up to a lot of people. If you have the vision and the story idea, you can use your phone to make a film. If you have a story to tell about whatever is important in your life, whether you’re a professional or not, if you take the time and take the care, you can do it on your phone because the quality is there.”
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