USA | 2016 | 103 min | English
What does it mean to film another person? How does it affect that person? And what does it do to the photographer? Kirsten Johnson is one of the most prolific cinematographers working in documentary film today. In this visually radical memoir, she presents a deeply poetic mosaic of footage she has shot for myriad other directors, including Michael Moore, Kirby Dick and Laura Poitras. There is painful and shocking material from Bosnia, Rwanda and Afghanistan, as well as scenes from the James Byrd Jr. trial—concerning the racist murder of a black man in Texas in the late 1990s—and less disturbing work about a Nigerian midwife and a young boxer from New York. All of this is reframed to illuminate moments and situations that have personally affected Kirsten. The result is an elegant meditation on the relationship between storytelling and the camera frame—a personal journey of craft and human connection.
Born in 1965, Kirsten Johnson is a graduate of Brown University, US. She has served as a cinematographer on more than 40 feature documentaries including Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004), This Film Is Not Yet Rated (2006) and the Oscar-winning Citizenfour (2014). “The dilemmas I face while holding my camera are formidable,” she says. “There are the challenges I must face—how to frame, find focus, choose direction. The other troubles are implicit. The people I film are in often desperate material need, but I offer little to nothing material. I can and will leave a place when the people I film cannot. I traffic in hope without the ability to know the future. I’ve been aware of these dimensions for most of my career. What I didn’t know is how the accumulation of these dilemmas would begin to impact me.”