Exposing her role behind the camera, Kirsten Johnson reaches into the vast trove of footage she has shot over decades around the world. What emerges is a visually bold memoir and a revelatory interrogation of the power of the camera.
A boxing match in Brooklyn; life in postwar Bosnia and Herzegovina; the daily routine of a Nigerian midwife; an intimate family moment at home: these scenes and others are woven into Cameraperson, a tapestry of footage collected over the twenty-five-year career of documentary cinematographer Kirsten Johnson. Through a series of episodic juxtapositions, Johnson explores the relationships between image makers and their subjects, the tension between the objectivity and intervention of the camera, and the complex interaction of unfiltered reality and crafted narrative. A hybrid work that combines documentary, autobiography, and ethical inquiry, Cameraperson is both a moving glimpse into one filmmaker's personal journey and a thoughtful examination of what it means to train a camera on the world.Written by
Kirsten Johnson has been working in the camera department and as cinematographer, producer and director for decades; her first credit, according to the Internet Movie Database, in 1996. This movie is a series of excerpts from the movies she has handled the camera on, all over the world, from Afghanistan to Serbia, to Brooklyn, to her family. She calls the results onscreen an album, and a betrayal: that you may have someone's permission when filming, but later.... in some ways it is a betrayal: particularly when she films her mother in the grip of Alzheimer's.
But even an album requires editing. Even if you include everything, the order of each sequence's inclusion affects its meaning; that's the point of the Kuleshov Effect. So what does this movie add up to, what does it say, what does it mean?
That is a question that can only be answered by the audience, the often unremarked component of cinema. A good film maker, a good editor, can often estimate what that result is, but only the audience can say what it is. Theory and practice: try it out and see what the result is. It's experimental cinema. The creator may have an opinion, but, well, at that point, it's no longer Miss Johnson's movie.
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