2016 has been a superb year for documentaries, and the latest example of this is “Cameraperson.” Directed by documentary filmmaker and cinematographer Kirsten Johnson, it is a series of images taken from her 20-plus year filmmaking career which she treats as a memoir of her life behind the camera. Among the visuals we get to see are of Brooklyn, a boxing match, postwar Bosnia and Herzegovina, a Nigerian midwife delivering babies as well as moments taken from Johnson’s own life as well. There is even a moment where she shoots footage of the entrance to an Iraqi prison which has a “you are there” feel to it, and it gets to where you are as eager to escape the area as they are. She presents these images to us in a movie without any narration as all these pictures tell a story all their own, and it is impossible to take your eyes off the screen. “Cameraperson” allows us to step into Johnson’s worldview as she takes us on a personal journey, and she acknowledges how complex it is to film and be filmed.
It was a real pleasure talking with Johnson while she was in Los Angeles to promote “Cameraperson,” and it resulted in one of the most fascinating interviews I have conducted this year. I was very eager to learn about how she went about constructing her documentary and of how it evolved from start to finish. This could have just been a movie with a bunch of images thrown together randomly, but there was clearly a lot of thought put into this one. Johnson also explained how she resisted the urge to put narration in her documentary, and she even shared some behind the scenes stories about “Citizenfour” which she was one of the camera people on.
Please check out the interview above, and be sure to watch “Cameraperson” which is now playing in Los Angeles at the Laemmle Royal thru September 29th.