Cameraperson

This autobiographical film by Kirsten Johnson is a collage of footage she has made during her life and during her career as a cameraperson working on a number of documentaries. It’s a fascinating film that moves smoothly between eras, though we must often guess at the exact year, as Johnson’s title cards for her sequences only say where the footage was made, and not when; however although I don’t think it progresses in a truly linear fashion (scenes surrounding the same boxing match bookend the film, for example) there is a general sense of progression through a life, partly due to the sense of political and global events having taken place and partly because we see members of Johnson’s family grow up and, in one case, pass away. The footage is mostly characterised by the presence of Johnson; often you will hear her talking with the directors she worked with (Laura Poitras, Michael Moore, etc.), or you’ll suddenly hear her breathing or spot a hand or arm or some other part of her body, so there’s a strong sense of authorship here, and a sense that she is reclaiming the ownership of much of the footage (ina completely non-aggressive, reasonable kind of way, I hasten to add). Johnson’s empathy for/with subjects is evident throughout, as is her curiosity about the world and in particular cultures that are foreign to her. It’s an excellent film that sums up a diverse and interesting career in an artistic, rhythmic fashion, and also shows off great skill and – often via small moments that capture natural occurrences – an ability to be in the right place at the right time. (****)