February 2, 2017, 7:00 P.M.
The Ray Stark Family Theatre, SCA 108, George Lucas Building, USC School of Cinematic Arts Complex, 900 W. 34th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90007
Outside the Box [Office], USC Shoah Foundation, and Janus Films, invite you and a guest to a special screening of
Directed by Kirsten Johnson
Cinematography by Kirsten Johnson
Produced by Kirsten Johnson and Marilyn Ness
Followed by a Q&A with Kirsten Johnson
Moderated by SCA Professor Ted Braun
7:00 P.M. on Thursday, February 2nd, 2017
The Ray Stark Family Theatre, SCA 108
900 W. 34th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90007
FREE ADMISSION. OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. RSVPs REQUIRED.
Official Selection: Sundance Film Festival 2016; True/False Film Festival 2016; SXSW Film Festival 2016; Full Frame Documentary Film Festival 2016; Hot Docs International Documentary Film Festival 2016.
A boxing match in Brooklyn; life in postwar Bosnia and Herzegovina; the daily routine of a Nigerian midwife; an intimate family moment at home: these scenes and others are woven into Cameraperson, a tapestry of footage captured over the twenty-five-year career of documentary cinematographer Kirsten Johnson. Through a series of episodic juxtapositions, Johnson explores the relationships between image makers and their subjects, the tension between the objectivity and intervention of the camera, and the complex interaction of unfiltered reality and crafted narrative. A work that combines documentary, autobiography, and ethical inquiry, Cameraperson is both a moving glimpse into one filmmaker’s personal journey and a thoughtful examination of what it means to train a camera on the world.
Provided courtesy of Janus Films. Not rated. Running time: 102 minutes. In English, Bosnian, Arabic, Dari, Hausa, and Fur, with English subtitles.
The joys of being a documentary cameraperson are endless and obvious: I get to share profound intimacy with the people I film, pursue remarkable stories, be at the center of events as they unfold, travel, collaborate, and see my work engage with the world. I experience physical freedom and the chance for artistic expression and discovery every time I hold a camera. No wonder I’ve been doing it for twenty-five years and love my life.
And yet, the dilemmas I face while holding my camera are formidable. There are the concrete challenges I must meet in the moment—how to frame, find focus, choose what direction to follow. The other troubles are implicit, and often unseen by audiences:
- The people I film are in immediate and often desperate need, but I can offer them little to no material assistance.
- I can and will leave a place I film—whether a war or a refugee camp—while the people I film cannot. I traffic in hope without the ability to know what will happen in the future.
- I ask for trust, cooperation, and permission without knowing where the filming experience will lead the subject.
- I shift the balance of power by my very presence, and act on behalf of one side or another in a conflict.
- My work requires trust, intimacy, and total attention. It often feels like a friendship or family— both to myself and the people I film—but it is something different.
- I know little about how the images I shoot will be used in the future, and cannot control their distribution or use.
- My work can change the way my subject is perceived by the people who surround him or her and can impact the subject’s reputation or safety for years into the future.
- I follow stories the director I work for does not need and/or does not want me to follow.
- I fail to see or follow stories the director hopes I will follow.
I’ve been aware of these dimensions for most of my career, as is the case for most documentarians, and I have often discussed them with colleagues. What I didn’t know until recently was how much the accumulation of these dilemmas would begin to affect me.
And what I didn’t anticipate when this film began just five years ago was how many people in the world would be using their cell phones as cameras, communicating instantaneously, and seeing images from every part of the globe. Surveillance, political repression, censorship, and the possibility of worldwide distribution of images filmed by any individual on the planet have an effect on all of us and our relation to filming in shifting and unprecedented ways.
In making Cameraperson, my team and I decided to rely as much as possible on the evidence of my experience that is contained within the footage I shot. We know this fragmentary portrait is incomplete and are interested in the way it reveals how stories are constructed. Our hope is to convey the feeling of immediacy that comes with finding oneself in new territory with a camera, as well as to give the audience a sense of how the joys and dilemmas a cameraperson must juggle accumulate over time.
Like the film, this note is an invitation to you, and an acknowledgment of how complex it is to film and be filmed.
About the Guest
Kirsten Johnson (director/producer/cinematographer) has worked as a documentary cinematographer and director, and has committed herself to recording human-rights issues and fostering visual creativity. She has been the principal cinematographer on more than forty feature-length documentaries, and she has been credited on numerous others.
After graduating from Brown University in 1987 with a degree in fine arts and literature, Johnson traveled to Senegal to study with acclaimed filmmakers Djibril Diop Mambety and Ousmane Sembene. The experience inspired her to apply to La Femis, France’s national film school, where she studied cinematography.
Following her graduation from La Femis, Johnson served as cameraperson on a number of highly acclaimed and award-winning documentaries, including Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004), This Film Is Not Yet Rated (2006), Pray the Devil Back to Hell (2008), and The Invisible War (2012).
Johnson has had a long-standing collaboration with Oscar-winning filmmaker Laura Poitras; she was the cinematographer on The Oath (2010) and Citizenfour (2014) and shot the upcoming film Risk. Additionally, she shot footage that appeared in Poitras’s visual-arts exhibition on surveillance, Laura Poitras: Astro Noise, which opened at the Whitney Museum in the winter of 2016.
When not filming, Johnson teaches a graduate course in visual thinking at NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute and a course on cinematography at the School of Visual Arts, and, working with the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, she often leads workshops for young camerapeople and documentarians in countries such as Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia.
About the Moderator
TED BRAUN (SCA Writing Division Professor)
Writer-director Ted Braun’s critically acclaimed first feature film, Darfur Now - won the NAACP Image Award for best documentary of 2007 and was named one of 2007’s top five documentaries by the National Board of Review. The film was produced by the Academy Award™ winning producer of Crash, Cathy Schulman, Academy Award™ nominee Don Cheadle, and three-time Academy Award™ winning documentarian Mark Jonathan Harris. Warner Brothers distributed Darfur Now worldwide and financed along with Participant Media, which spearheaded a global social action campaign.
For his work writing and directing the picture, the International Documentary Association awarded Braun their 2007 Emerging Filmmaker of the Year. In addition, the Winter 2008 issue of Movie Maker Magazine named him, along with Errol Morris, Oliver Stone, Michael Moore, and Robert Redford one of 25 filmmakers whose work has changed the world.
Prior to Darfur Now Braun wrote and directed award winning short form fictional films and documentaries for HBO, PBS, A&E and The Discovery Channel on topics ranging from test pilots of aviation’s golden age to the battle for the rights of the developmentally disabled.
As part of a writing-directing deal at New Line Cinema, Braun recently completed a script about one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, Lopez Lomong, who became a US Olympian in track and field. He’s currently developing a feature documentary about Somali piracy with Plan B Entertainment, Brad Pitt’s production company, and a feature adaptation of All The Shah’s Men, Stephen Kinzer’s best selling account of the 1953 CIA coup that installed the Shah of Iran in power.
Braun taught screenwriting at Amherst College before joining the faculty at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts where he is an Associate Professor in Screenwriting and recipient of the University’s illustrious Phi Kappa Phi faculty recognition award. He regularly lectures, conducts seminars, and serves as a consultant throughout Europe and the US. His students have won or been nominated for some of the most prestigious cinema and television prizes: Academy Awards, the Palme d’Or, Emmys, Sundance Festival Awards, and European Media Prizes.
Braun is the founding president of the board of Cinema For Peace Foundation USA. He serves as a judge for both the DGA and the WGA feature documentary awards and the prestigious Scripter award for best adapted feature screenplay. He grew up in rural Vermont and lives in Los Angeles with his wife and eleven year old son.
About Outside the Box [Office]
Outside the Box [Office] is a weekly showcase for upcoming releases highlighting world cinema, documentary and independent film titles. Recognizing a need for greater diversity on campus, the series will draw from around the globe to present movies that may challenge, inspire or simply entertain.
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About USC Shoah Foundation – The Institute for Visual History and Education
USC Shoah Foundation – The Institute for Visual History and Education is dedicated to making audio-visual interviews with survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust and other genocides a compelling voice for education and action.
The Institute currently has over 53,000 testimonies, each one a unique source of insight and knowledge that offer powerful stories from history that demand to be explored and shared. In this way, we will be able to see the faces and hear the voices of those who witnessed history, allowing them to teach and inspire action against intolerance.
Visit the USC Shoah Foundation website: https://sfi.usc.edu/
Check-In & Reservations
This screening is free of charge and open to the public. Please bring a valid USC ID or print out of your reservation confirmation, which will automatically be sent to your e-mail account upon successfully making an RSVP through this website. Doors will open at 6:30 P.M.
All SCA screenings are OVERBOOKED to ensure seating capacity in the theater, therefore seating is not guaranteed based on RSVPs. The RSVP list will be checked in on a first-come, first-served basis until the theater is full. Once the theater has reached capacity, we will no longer be able to admit guests, regardless of RSVP status.
The USC School of Cinematic Arts is located at 900 W. 34th St., Los Angeles, CA 90007. Parking passes may be purchased for $12.00 at USC Entrance Gate #5, located at the intersection of W. Jefferson Blvd. & McClintock Ave. We recommend Parking Structure D, at the far end of 34th Street. Metered street parking is also available along Jefferson Blvd.
Name: Alessandro Ago