Original Title: Cameraperson
Length: 102 minutes
Language: English, Bosnian, Dari
Country: United States of America
Film Category: Documentary Feature
Cast & Credits
Director: Kirsten Johnson
Producer: Marilyn Ness
Editor: Nels Bangerter
Director of Photography: Kirsten Johnson
Sound Designer: Kathryn Bostic
Produced by: Big Mouth Productions
Veteran documentarian Kirsten Johnson intricately pieces together clips from her 25-year career to examine the ethics of documentary filmmaking. In Cameraperson, Johnson brings viewers into diverse scenes, including a Nigerian maternity hospital, a detention center in Afghanistan, a boxing gym in Brooklyn, New York, and a farm in Foča, Bosnia, highlighting the lives and struggles of everyday people and examining the relationship between subject and biographer. Johnson’s work is juxtaposed against her personal life as she raises her children while facing the declining health of her mother. Cameraperson asks probing questions while drawing viewers into stories across the world.
Kirsten Johnson has worked as both documentary cinematographer and director, committing herself to human rights issues and visual creativity. She is the principal cinematographer on over 40 feature-length documentaries and has been credited on countless others.
After graduating from Brown University in 1987 with a BA in Fine Arts and Literature, Johnson travelled to Senegal to study with acclaimed filmmakers Djibril Diop Mambety and Ousmane Sembene. The experience inspired her to apply to the French National Film School (La Femis), where she began to study cinematography. While at La Femis, she began to shoot the documentary Derrida, with directors Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick—the earliest of Johnson’s works to appear in her retrospective Cameraperson.
After graduating from La Femis, she went on to shoot a number of highly-acclaimed and award-winning documentaries including Pray the Devil Back to Hell, Fahrenheit 9/11, This Film is Not Yet Rated, and The Invisible War.
Johnson has a longstanding collaboration with Oscar-winning filmmaker Laura Poitras, credited as cinematographer on her films The Oath, Citizenfour, and the upcoming Asylum. Additionally, Johnson shot footage that appeared in Poitras' visual exhibition on surveillance, which opened at the Whitney Museum in spring 2016.
In 2009, Johnson embarked on a directorial project documenting the lives of two teenagers in Afghanistan, to be called A Blind Eye. After three years of shooting and editing, one of the subjects retracted her permission to be featured. The film was reconsidered and restructured, combined with footage from over 30 films from Johnson’s career to form Cameraperson, an insightful look at the relationship between biographer and subject.
When not shooting, Johnson teaches the class in Visual Thinking at the NYU Graduate Journalism Department, a course in cinematography at School of Visual Arts, and often leads workshops for young camerapeople and documentarians under the auspices of the Arab Art and Culture Fund in countries such as Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria.
Followed by Q&A with director Kirsten Johnson
April 14, 2017 | 6:30 PM
BHFF Jury Award for the Best Documentary Film
BHFF Audience Award for the Best Picture