10 June: Kirsten Johnson


This week we’re celebrating the award-winning American cinematographer and filmmaker Kirsten Johnson. A frequent collaborator of documentarian Laura Poitras (Oath, CitizenFour), Kirsten’s new film Cameraperson, which had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, is now making its way to UK shores as part of Sheffield Doc/Fest.

The veteran filmmaker has been behind the camera for twenty-five years, travelling all over the world with directors like Poitras and Michael Moore. In Cameraperson, she takes a journey down memory lane, discussing the ethics of documenting the intimacies of other people on film through the prism of the footage she’s built up over the years.

In an interview with Film Comment Kirsten talked about how centring women’s lives in her films is second nature:

“I was always thinking about human rights questions when I was filming, so I knew that was a thematic of mine. But it’s hilarious to me how late in the game I realized, “Oh, women’s place in the world, I deeply care about that,” even though I was working with all these women directors like Gini Reticker and Abby Disney, for who that’s the primary preoccupation. I would be like, “Race, race, race,” and they’d be like, “Women, women, women.” And then at a certain point, I was like: “Oh yeah, women!” It’s really evident in my film that I’m preoccupied with what women are doing and the challenges women face. It’s not what I’m focusing on, but it’s totally there.”

Read the rest of Film Comment’s fascinating deep-dive conversation with Kirsten and find out more about Cameraperson here.

Check out more Doc/Fest’s Women in Docs strand (including a Chantal Akerman mini retrospective!) here.

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