Visions du Réel is extremely happy to welcome Kirsten Johnson as Special Guest of its 53rd edition, which will take place from 7 to 17 April. The renowned, multi-award-winning filmmaker and cinematographer from the United States, who has some 60 films under her belt will be in Nyon to present a retrospective of her films as well as a selection of films to which she has contributed. As much in the films she has directed – particularly with Dick Johnson is Dead (2020), a winner at Sundance – as in her collaborations – which include, for example, Citizenfour (2014) by Laura Poitras, which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary – Kirsten Johnson has never stopped questioning the ethical issues of documentary filmmaking and assumed the presence of a person behind the camera.
Born in Washington State, Kirsten Johnson studied Fine Arts and Literature at Brown University before graduating from Fémis. Following two short films, dealing with excision – Bintou in Paris (1995) – and US surveillance in Afghanistan – The Above (2015), and two feature-length films looking at the American justice system – Deadline (2004) and Innocent Until Proven Guilty (1999) –, she gained international recognition with Cameraperson (2016), which premiered at Sundance, was preselected at the Academy Awards and won three Cinema Eye Honors. Composed of rushes shot over several decades for various directors as a cinematographer, the film interweaves documentary and autobiography, and questions the relationship between the filmer and the filmed subject, as well as the tension between reality and narrative construction. These ideas underpin all her work. In 2020, her latest film, Dick Johnson is Dead (2020), produced by Netflix, further experiments with the possibilities of cinema, this time in a more roundabout way and humoristic manner, so as to exorcise fate – that of the dreaded death of her father. It won the Special Jury Award for Innovation in Non-fiction Storytelling at Sundance, Best Director and Best Documentary Feature at the Critics’ Choice Awards, and was preselected for the Academy Awards.
In addition to her own films, Kirsten Johnson is a major cinematographer in the United States. She has contributed to over 60 films, in particular Derrida (by Kirby Dick, 2002 – a portrait of the French philosopher), Fahrenheit 9/11 (by Michael Moore, 2004 – Palme d’or at the Cannes Film Festival), and Pray the Devil Back to Hell (by Gini Reticker, 2008 – Best Documentary Feature at the Tribeca Film Festival). Her fruitful collaboration with the director Laura Poitras has led her to participate to, among other films, The Oath (2010 – about Osama bin Laden’s driver – winning the Excellence in Cinematography Award at Sundance) and Citizenfour (2014, on Edward Snowden and his revelations about the NSA, which took the Academy Award for Best Documentary).
This tribute resonates this year in the visuals of the Festival’s 53rd edition.
2020 Dick Johnson is Dead (Director, DOP)
2018 A Thousand Thoughts, Sam Green (DOP)
2016 Cameraperson (Director, DOP)
2016 Trapped, Dawn Porter (DOP)
2016 Risk, Laura Poitras (DOP)
2015 The Above, (Director, DOP)
2014 1971, Johanna Hamilton (DOP)
2014 Citizenfour, Laura Poitras (DOP)
2012 Here One Day, Kathy Leichter (DOP)
2012 The Invisible War, Kirby Dick (DOP)
2012 The Program, Laura Poitras (DOP)
2012 Virgin Tales, Mirjam van Arx (DOP)
2010 The Oath, Laura Poitras (DOP)
2007 Election Day, Katy Chevigny (DOP)
2007 Captain Mike Across America, Michael Moore (DOP)
2006 This Film Is Not Yet Rated, Kirby Dick (DOP)
2004 Fahrenheit 9/11, Michael Moore (Cameraperson)
2004 Deadline (Director, DOP)
2002 Derrida, Kirby Dick (DOP)
2001 Le profit et rien d’autre ! ou réflexions abusives sur la lutte des classes, Raoul Peck (DOP)
1999 Innocent Until Proven Guilty (Director)
1995 Bintou in Paris
1994 Il faut que je l’aime, Sebastien Lifschitz (DOP)