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.
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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's CAMERAPERSON is a documentary collage lovingly pieced together from outtakes of the many documentaries she's worked on in her long career as, well, a cameraperson. Intermingled with these outtakes are snippets from Johnson's personal life: playing with her twin toddlers, poignant flashes of her mother succumbing to Alzheimer's, sweet moments with her father & the twins at her parents' home in Beaux Arts, WA. In the vein of Koyaanisqatsi or Fast, Cheap & Out of Control, the seemingly unrelated clips are woven together until patterns begin to emerge. In the Q&A afterward, Ms. Johnson said that in most every Q&A an audience member discovers a new pattern or theme--pointing to an editing process that is both intentional & subconscious. The pacing & structure of the movie invokes the essence of fleeting memories. As an audience, we are given a behind the scenes look at what it takes to make documentaries. In a clip that illustrates the difficult balance between objective observer & compassionate storyteller, we watch a Bosnian toddler attempting to play with an axe. As his tiny fingers come perilously close to the blade, the audience cringes & we hear an off-camera exclamation of "Oh, Jesus!" from Johnson. An intimate portrait of a cameraperson, illustrating the delicate balance between the personal & the professional.
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