The term “monumental” feels like it must be hyperbole, but there’s really nothing else that captures what veteran documentary cinematographer Kirsten Johnson has achieved with an idea that sounds on the surface like a snooze: compiling snippets of footage from many of the films she’s shot over the course of 25 years, plus her own home movies. But what emerges in that footage is something that strips bare the idea of “objective” journalistic filmmaking to find the humanity in every work of artistic creation—the person behind the camera. And that person emerges here in ways both adorably small (a sneeze that shakes the camera, or a shadow on the sidewalk) to gasp-inducingly huge (watching as a Bosnian toddler tries to play with a hatchet lodged in a stump). The on-camera subjects are often fascinating all on their own, whether they’re survivors of genocide or Johnson’s own mother struggling with dementia. It’s the way these moments are put together, however—in one of the greatest works of film editing you’ll ever find—that results in an emotional bombshell about art and the simple experience of caring about other people.
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