Film Reviews

Review: ‘Cameraperson’

Hot Docs 2016

Photo by Gini Reticker

(USA, 102 min.)
Dir. Kristen Johnson
Programme: Artscapes (International Premiere)

With Cameraperson, the cinematographer and filmmaker Kirsten Johnson performs quite the coup: through documenting her own work, she interrogates herself and her process. Her film mixes the experimentation of the avant garde with the direct focus of verité and the intimacy of a web journal with the visceral thrill of a behind-the-scenes doc. It showcases, in a unique and extraordinary way, a decade and a half of working in the documentary trenches, working on films like Citizenfour, A Place at the Table and The Invisible War.

Johnson’s work provides a meditation on the craft of capturing the unequivocal truth of the non-fiction frame, allowing viewers to witness the quotidian reality of filmmaking, from the earned panting of Johnson as she runs ahead of her subject for a shot to the subtle grooming of grass blocking a given shot. From urban jungles to bleak warzones, each locale plays off the other, forming a mosaic of memories.

The films that Johnson has shot or directed run the gamut from personal pieces to celebrity biopics to political documentaries, and each element is captured in ways that seem to provide justice to the subject. It’s the moments that are excised in the masterworks that provide Johnson’s own film the thrills, crafting a kind of alternate, Rashomon -like facet to these oft-famous docs. As an autobiography, it’s unparalleled, as it provides a showcase of the last 25 years of documentaries. Cameraperson is an entertaining, engaging work, which is surely one of the finest non-fiction films of the year.

Please visit the POV Hot Docs hub for more coverage on this year’s festival.

Hot Docs runs April 28 – May 8. Visit for more information.