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
Cameraperson (2016) is a documentary, directed by Kirsten Johnson, about her own career. Johnson has directed--or done the cinematography--for many documentaries that certainly appear to be extremely interesting. Unfortunately, I haven't seen any of them, so I can't comment directly about her work. She calls Cameraperson an autobiography, but I don't think that's really accurate. We do learn a bit about Johnson and her family in the movie, but mostly we see a patchwork quilt of her work. (I say patchwork quilt because Johnson has presented short segments of her films in seemingly random order.)
Michael Moore--who appears in one of the segments--is a documentary film director who is always in the center of his movies. However, Johnson doesn't seem to appear much in her own films. (One exception is a movie she filmed in Bosnia. She returned five years later to interview the same people, and they treated her like an old friend.)
Johnson is talented, so a short segment of each film whets your appetite. However, each segment is too short to be satisfying. Also, it's hard to learn why she makes documentaries. Is it just what she does, or does she have a political or social agenda? Johnson doesn't tell us, so we have to speculate.
We saw this film at the excellent Little Theatre in Rochester, NY. It will work almost as well on the small screen.
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