Cameraperson

*****

Reviewed by: Anne-Katrin Titze

Cameraperson
"The people encountered while working as a cinematographer for different documentarians, shooting all over the globe, are woven into a fascinating, irregular net of meaning."

Curious sheep in front of a pink Bosnian evening sky gaze in puzzlement at the cameraperson filming them. Next, the Missouri sky, no less beautiful, is ripped into two by lightning. Then comes the thunder. Then a sneeze from the off, that slightly shakes the camera. Kirsten Johnson masterfully catches it all, and especially the sneezes, the perceived imperfections, that make us human.

The filmmaker's twins want a funeral for a dead bird they found in their grandfather's garden. The refugee crisis points to the urgency to find a way to "represent death" and not lose sight of dignity. Time is not linear, the visitation of the past jumps onto our present like the lightning or the sneeze. This is how memory works. And her camera is accomplice.

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The striking images, haunting, savage and forgiving are like escapees, trying to interact with the impossible. Cameraperson stretches out towards those things, in a Lacanian sense, that do not cease to write themselves.

Profound moments are rushing at us all at once, it seems. Right after a girl from Huntsville, Alabama is comforted by a voice that says "unintended pregnancy is all it is," stopping the self-demonisation for a moment, the next cut, as if in a dream, leaves us with Kirsten's mother on a ranch in Wyoming, three years after her Alzheimer diagnosis.

An a cappella group sings in the parking lot at the first Penn State home game after the child sex abuse scandal hit the media. A woman in Bosnia speaks about the systematic rapes and how the girls who talked, were "never seen again." Places of cruelty with crimes half-forgotten are revisited.

The dead are alive and circle the abandoned buildings. Eternal left-overs are being confronted head-on. There is Jacques Derrida crossing Houston Street in New York City while being filmed. He tells Kirsten to be careful and calls it the "image of philosophers" - someone "who falls in the well while looking at the stars."

A midwife in Nigeria (the need for oxygen), the pregnant girl in Alabama (her voice, her jeans, her hands - not her face), Michael Moore in Washington, DC with a marine (who is not going back to war), a boy testing his eyes in Kabul, Afghanistan (almost blind in one, from a bomb) - the people encountered while working as a cinematographer for different documentarians, shooting all over the globe, are woven into a fascinating, irregular net of meaning.

We are nudged to invent our own narratives with plots that remain undone, giving an ending that will be both truthful and a betrayal.

Cameraperson has been selected as one of the nine on the Oscar Best Documentary shortlist for the 89th Academy Awards.

Reviewed on: 22 Dec 2016
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Cinematographer Kirsten Johnson documents her career working with filmmakers.

Director: Kirsten Johnson

Starring: Kirsten Johnson

Year: 2016

Runtime: 102 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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