With the onset of the contemporary American film came the boom of an industry. As an establishment that has captured the hearts of billions for over two centuries, one must ask the quintessential question: just how far are we willing to go for our opus? How far can we take film?
This faculty, the ability to discern how much of an impact a film will make, and how far the scars of emotional snags can travel from the mind of the illustrator to the viewer, is an accomplishment very few directors achieve. But, in regards to the Cinema Eye Honors ceremony, hosted earlier this week, much has to be said — for there were works displayed that oozed with sentimental passion and artistic vision all at once. The Knockturnal even caught a glimpse into the passionate story of three-time CEH winning Cameraperson Director, Kirsten Johnson.
Q: How do you feel about winning the Award tonight?
A: You know, honestly, I look at you; and really, I look at you, and it makes me feel really — “I will cry.” I want you to make films. I want to see the films you make. And I really mean it. Because it’s just like, you know, we’re in this world together, and we really need to find the way for everyone who needs to tell their story to tell their story. And sometimes, it takes a really long crazy road, and most of the time it does. But our world would be a really beautiful place if everyone was given the same support, and love, to tell their own story. So, that’s what I’m all about. We’re all camera people. We’re all filmmakers. We’re all needed, needed. So I’m seeing you, right now, and you come back to me, and show me the film you make. And we will go forward to the future. Okay? That’s what we’re doing.
Q: How’s the process behind the film-making?
A: This process is a really crazy process. So, I was trying to make a movie in Afghanistan. I worked on it for three years, and I worked on it with Amanda Laws, who is here tonight. And when we were almost finished with the film, we showed it to one of the young women who was in the film and she said, “I’m too afraid now to be in this film,” so, we needed to respect that and we needed to let that film go. And it was extremely painful. It was a beautiful film. And yet, it reminded me of where we are in history and where we are in history is that things change always in history. In ways that we never see coming.
And so, when I started making the film in Afghanistan, I thought I could show this young woman’s face. She thought she could show her face. By the time we were done, it was no longer possible. And that’s what happens. History can change in a day; can change in an hour. And so, then that made me think about all of my blind spots. I should’ve known better. I should’ve known. And that’s really being hard on myself, and that’s what a lot of us do. We’re not kind enough to ourselves. We can’t know the history coming. We can’t know when it’s suddenly dangerous to be someone. It shouldn’t ever be dangerous to be a person. But, as we know, sometimes it’s dangerous to just be. And that’s wrong. And some of us, who are optimists, we wish to not see that. But the truth is — you and I know the truth — we live in a world where it’s dangerous for some people just to be.
So, it’s dangerous for you to be. But, we say — we reject that, all of us reject that together. We make things together. And, you know, we’re gonna make it work. We gotta make it work. Because it’s not pretty. And so, I went into that. I went into the difficult stuff. I went into my blind spots. I went back to things I’ve filmed. I went back to everything that I considered to be my failures — and they were my failures — and I think, you know, what’s powerful for me is that I connect — I can connect. I can see you, I can look into your eyes. You can look into my eyes. You can connect. And I value empathy. But, when you have systems that crush people; systems of poverty or systems of racism or systems of any kind of discrimination, empathy is not enough.
So, what do we do with that? And, a camera is power; a recording device is power. You’re holding a phone in your hand, and you can record
my voice. You have my voice forever. You can edit it, you can do what you wanna do with it. You have the power in this moment. And I trust you. And this is what happens between two people, and as a recording device between them. So, what’s happening here, between our eyes, this is it, this is the human connection. And a recording device comes in, and either it transforms, and elevates and amplifies and respects, or it patronizes, it makes fun of, it can do all those things, right?
And, so, I struggled with Cameraperson to talk about, you know, the trust I created here. Did I betray it with my recording device? And so, that was my struggle. And also, just with the love and the loss, you know. You meet someone for a moment and you love them, and then you walk away, and they have marked you. So one of the beautiful things I experienced making Cameraperson was that every person’s eyes, that I filmed, when I went back to the footage, I recognized everyone. So, you’re seeing me, it’s going into you, I’m seeing you, it’s going into me. And that’s what Cameraperson is.
Q: How would you rate the night, though?
A: You know, this was a crazy night for me. Because I felt really at home here. And this felt really easy and beautiful. So, it’s a beautiful night.
Based at the Museum of The Moving Image, in Astoria, the ceremony began with high-end festivities; food and drink and celebration were common-place. The site was loaded with directorial genius, and the film paraphernalia from various works of new and old complimented the exciting atmosphere. After much mingling, we made our way into the theatre, where years of work and dedication were officially judged by Cinema Eye talent, including: Board Chairs Marshall Curry and Charlotte Cook; Co-Chairs Wendy Garrett and Nathan Truesdell; Managing Director Will Lennon, and Founding Director AJ Schnack.