December 31, 2016 -- This film, made up of documentary film clips and personal videos shot over a 25 year period by Kirsten Johnson, shows the beauty and ugliness of people all over the world, as well as the emotions of the person behind the camera.
The introduction of this film is this: “For the past 25 years I've worked as a documentary cinematographer. I originally shot the following footage for other films, but here I ask you to see it as my memoir. These are the images that have marked me and leave me wondering still.”
Some of the clips that caught my eye were the ones filmed in Wyoming, the state where I live. Shooting at the Headquarters Sheep Ranch, Kirsten's mother, Catherine Joy Johnson, walks in front of the camera. When Kirsten asks her mother if it is O.K. for her to be filmed, she doesn't answer. She had Alzheimer's disease, and died in 2007.
Although the clips of films show places thousands of miles apart, in America, Europe, Asia, Africa, there is a common theme, and life stories, of places, events, and the cameraperson herself. From the horrors of war and hate crimes, to children playing in a bucolic setting, there is one person who ties it all together into one story.
The high profile hate crime is the horrible murder of James Byrd Jr., who was dragged to death behind a speeding pickup truck. Clips of evidence in the case, and events described by law enforcement people, provide a chilling narrative of Byrd's terrible torture and death. Similarly, Kirsten cries when filming an interview with a war survivor, blinded in one eye, talking about the explosion that injured him and killed his brother in Afghanistan.
In a rural area near Foča, Bosnia, children play at a farm. At the farm, Kirsten interviews an old woman smoking a cigarette, who defiantly says they have no problems with the local Serbians, despite the fact they are among the very few Muslims who have returned to this area since the war.
Years later, Kirsten returns to the same people to show them the film she made of them, and to tell them of the wonderful memories she had, and how they helped to heal the emotional wounds she had from documenting the effects of that country's awful war and genocide. Others interviewed in the film talk about the emotional scars from investigating war crimes in Bosnia.
The proud family tells Kirsten to bring her family back so they can see how the peasants live in rural Bosnia. These hardy people inspire Kirsten, along with her own children, playing with her camera in another scene. The resilience of the human spirit defiantly coexists right alongside the worst of humanity. This film rates a B.
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