IDFA - Cameraperson with Extended Q&A

A visual autobiography, compiled from the impressive visual archive of Kirsten Johnson, “cameraperson” on films such as Fahrenheit 9/11, Pray the Devil Back to Hell and Citizenfour.

What do a midwife in Nigeria, a boxer in Boston, a murderer from Texas and a traumatized Bosnian woman have in common? They all figure in the impressive visual archive of “cameraperson” Kirsten Johnson. Using 25 years of material from 24 authoritative films (including Fahrenheit 9/11, Pray the Devil Back to Hell and Citizenfour), Johnson has assembled a kaleidoscopic journey that takes us all over the world, challenging and surprising us at each new destination.

On the one hand, the film is a self-portrait that gradually reveals insights into its maker’s way of looking, with Johnson allowing us occasional glimpses into her private life: we meet her children and her mother, who is suffering from dementia. On the other hand, it is an almost politically charged film that challenges us as viewers to think about how a filmmaker, simply by being present with a camera, is no longer simply recording reality. In Johnson’s case, this presents a visible, recurring dilemma: at what moment does the role of observer necessarily turn into that of participant?

Film critic Nicolas Rapold talks to editor Nels Bangerter and director Kirsten Johnson about her visual autobiography Cameraperson.