Cameraperson: A woman’s life behind the camera
To celebrate women in film, this International Women’s Day our partner Picturehouse Cinemas is holding a special screening of the award-winning documentary Cameraperson.
Cameraperson is a memoir of Kirsten Johnson’s career behind the camera. From rape and sexual violence in Bosnia, to delivering babies in Nigeria, to her mother’s struggle with Alzheimer’s, Cameraperson has a strong focus on the stories and difficulties of women.
To win tickets to our special screening of Cameraperson on Wednesday 8 March at Picturehouse Central. Simply tell us on our Facebook page who is the bravest girl you know and why! Need inspiration - see what Kirsten said?
We caught up with Kirsten to find out more about her experience following stories of incredibly brave women around the world.
It took me some time to understand how epidemic the challenges are that women face around the world. Particularly in places where resources are scarce, girls are often the last to benefit. So [my experience has] been from watching small girls carry huge buckets of water for their families, to not going to school, or seeing too young girls in the maternity ward - girls whose bodies aren’t ready to be mothers yet. So I’ve been educated over time by how many obstacles and challenges young girls are up against around the world.
I always find it interesting when girls watch me. Many times, I’m the first woman like me that they’ve seen - a woman who’s in some kind of position of power and is making choices on her own. I can move freely, talk who I want to, and that is meaningful to people living in constraints. It can be completely intriguing to them.
As a western woman working in countries that place different values on a woman’s place in society – did you face any challenges filming?
For a long time I was always asked ‘are you married,’ ‘do you have children,’ and I didn’t have children until I was 41 years old so for a very long time the answer of ‘no’ was really significant to people of where I was. I would be the object of pity or curiosity.
The bravest woman
I always find the 11 year olds [girls] to be remarkably bold and brave.
On International Women’s Day, what key messages would you like the audience to take away from the women you have filmed over your career?
Well I find women to be thrilling. Because women do understand by necessity how much we need each other and so I love the way that women rely on each other and contribute to each other.
You’ve made a career out of telling and showing other people’s stories to the world. How do think communicating these stories helps them?
I don’t assume that these stories always help. But shame is one of the greatest creators of violence, when we hide certain things because they are not supposed to be. I believe that being a human is a very complicated thing and if we can be emotionally brave we are contributing to the end of violence.
Who’s your biggest role model?
I think so many role models are scattered throughout the world but who comes to mind in this moment of time...I think about the midwife [from Nigeria] in Cameraperson. The way in which she understands the enormity of the situation she’s in and she’s clear minded about going to work and [being] as steady and as focused as she can. And she’s going to attempt to save every baby and mother she can despite the fact that there’s no blood bank at the hospital and they don’t have the resources. She’s just going to treat everybody tenderly and do her work. There’s a great modesty to it and an incredible stamina.
We follow the story of your Mum’s illness in the film. What was your Mum like growing up and did she have any influence on your choice of career?
My mother was an incredible visual person, she loved to take photographs and she loved to talk about the beauty of things. It’s interesting because my mother suffered the loss of her mother at a pretty young age of, she was in a car accident, at 20, and my mother was driving the car. And I think like many people who have suffered a violent loss of someone they love, she wanted to see beauty. And in my adolescent years I was always pushing back and saying you need to see the ugly things in the world.
As a mother what are your hopes for your daughter for the future?
I hope that my daughter feels like she can follow her curiosity wherever it leads her in her life.
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