Stunning detailed shots of the Bosnian countryside introduce the award-winning documentary, Cameraperson, by Kirsten Johnson, produced by Marilyn Ness, and which premiered at Sundance Film Festival.
With many ground level, intimate close-up angles, conversations, comments about shooting scenes – even sneezes – unedited and poignant, genuine interactions with subjects, the viewer is immediately invited to participate in the journey. A beautiful collage of clips, visuals and sound, the film explores humanity’s emotions, suffering and courage through informal interviews with people from around the world, including Johnson’s mother and her struggles with Alzheimer’s; a friend whose own mother committed suicide; philosopher Jacques Derrida and director Michael Moore.
The work is comprised of 24 short pieces of footage: we visit a sheep farmer in Bosnia, boxers in Brooklyn, NY, midwives in Nigeria, a courtroom in Texas, a Ferris wheel in Afghanistan, a state college in Pennsylvania and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. We meet a Bosnian family who survived war, mass rape and torture; a Nigerian hospital without adequate facilities trying to save a sick newborn; a US teenager, heartbroken and wracked with guilt as she is about to have an abortion; Texas prosecutors in the trial of the killers who dragged James Byrd to his death; a boy in Nigeria who lost his eye in an attack and witnessed his brother’s gruesome murder; a US college in shock following a child sex scandal; and a woman expressing intense grief and anger following her mother’s suicide.
Johnson’s sensitivity to the people she profiles, and her love for them, highlights their humanity and individuality. The clips are either long enough to involve us – particularly the interviews – or very brief snippets, such as a plane landing in Queens, NY, or previews to scenes that conclude later on.
The cinematography is particularly outstanding, with gorgeous detail, unusual angles and meticulous framing. Editing is an important element of the movie’s success: visuals and sound are strikingly combined to intensify the poetic emotion of the work.
How does the camera represent our world? Clearly the medium of film contains incredible potential in terms of definition and interpretation. Johnson’s Cameraperson is at once a poignant and lovely artistic statement about life’s beauty and pain, and an intuitively compassionate, human documentary.
Cameraperson is released nationwide on 27th January 2017.
Watch the trailer for Cameraperson here: