Cameraperson (2016)

cameraperson poster documentary 2016
8.5 Overall Score

Interesting look at the life of a documentary maker


Movie Info

Movie Name:   Cameraperson

Studio:   Big Mouth Productions

Genre(s):   Documentary

Release Date(s):  January 26, 2016 (Sundance Film Festival)/September 9, 2016 (US)

MPAA Rating:   Not Rated

cameraperson mother alzheimers

Sometimes the documentary shows Johnson’s life and the people in it…

Kirsten Johnson has travelled the world.  As a documentary shooter, she’s covered subjects from Sarajevo to New York City and everything in-between.  Combing through her footage, Kirsten begins to assemble a look at the life of a documentary filmmaker…what works, what doesn’t, and what a person learns when looking through a lens and listening to their subjects.

Directed by Kirsten Johnson, Cameraperson is a documentary film.  The movie premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and received critical acclaim.  The Criterion Collection released the film as part of their imprint (Criterion #853).

Documentaries always seem to have a heart and when you watch them despite the detached nature of the filmmakers, you wonder how they can just watch and say/do nothing.  With Cameraperson, you get a look into the world of what it is like to observe, ask the questions, and travel.

cameraperson kirsten johnson hatchet children documentary

Say something about the children playing with a hatchet or don’t say anything about the children playing with the hatchet…

The documentary isn’t like a lot of documentaries.  It doesn’t have a distinct narrative, but through the hodgepodge of clips which rarely last more than a couple minutes, you start to get a real picture for both the experience of what it is to shoot documentaries and what Kirsten Johnson is like.  Sometimes she is the filmmaker and other times she is the simply shooting for other people, but it seems to have her own touch to it.

As the clips unfold, you also get to see glimpses into her life.  She reveals her mother’s battle (and eventual death) as someone with Alzheimer’s.  You see her interactions with her children and her fear when watching two children playing with a hatchet…desperately wanting to step in but keeping herself from doing it.

cameraperson kirsten johnson alzheimers mother

Kirsten makes a rare appearance on camera

This leads to the bigger dilemma for a documentary shooter and that is that they are observers.  A sequence where a baby is born, needs oxygen to survive, but there is no oxygen.  As a person, you want to jump in and try to find a way to save the baby, but even if you did get involved and try, there is probably no available oxygen in the area.  It is a struggle that filmmakers face, and Johnson reveals here.

Cameraperson doesn’t have a lot of direction but you don’t need a lot of direction.  It is a glimpse into the work of someone who has a job very different than many with different responsibilities and choices.  Johnson brings you the sights you never see…but she sees them first hand and must choose what to show, give, and explain to the viewers.  It isn’t always easy and it becomes your life…like it or not.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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