Kirsten Johnson — the cinematographer behind “Citizenfour,” “Fahrenheit 9/11,” “Darfur Now” and “The Invisible War” — delved into her personal connections with the subjects of her lens in “Cameraperson,” released last September. She talked with Variety in January about the catalyst for the film.
I had the idea of making “Cameraperson” after working on a documentary which fell apart because its protagonist, a young Afghan girl who had initially accepted to be filmed, changed her mind after three years when she saw the almost-completed film and she feared it would put her life in danger.
The extent of the ethical conflict that we face as filmmakers at this moment in history, now that the Internet exists, really dawned on me in that moment. In this new territory we’re in, we can’t control where images go. This has an impact on people being filmed and the people making images as well: we can all be traced. It used to be that when you filmed someone in a foreign country who needed protection, you could tell people that footage would never be seen in their country. Today we can’t. In many ways, “Cameraperson” is about representation and misrepresentation, about political, ethical questions, as much as it is about trauma, love and tenderness.
Those questions came home to roost for Johnson, who interspersed scenes of massacre and desperation with scenes of her own mother’s mental decline, as the symptoms of Alzheimer’s set in. As Arkansas Times Film Series curator Omaya Jones wrote in this week’s To-Do List, Johnson says she is is “not in the film, yet [she’s] everywhere in the film.”
Tonight’s screening begins at 7 p.m. at Riverdale 10 Cinema, and tickets are $8.50. RSVP here.