Sundance 2016: Cameraperson, Notes on Blindness
Toward the beginning of Kirsten Johnson’s Cameraperson, there’s a moment that always gets a laugh. We’re watching a locked-down shot of a chilly Missouri landscape. Suddenly two little sneezes erupt, jiggling the frame.
It’s a funny and a gentle entry point to Johnson’s film memoir about “the images that marked me.” It’s one of the spoonsful of sugar that help the more harrowing scenes go down, for Johnson has photographed some pretty hairy stuff during her 25-year career. She has shot in Bosnia, Nigeria, Liberia, Uganda, Rwanda and Darfur, as well as on America’s battlegrounds over abortion, government surveillance, execution, and post-9/11 military strategy. She’s been in 86 countries and shot 60 documentaries, 24 of which appear in this film, including Laura Poitras’ Citizenfour and The Oath (AC April ’10), Whitney Dow and Marco Williams’ Two Towns of Jasper, and Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11. [...]
NOTES ON BLINDNESS
How does one visualize the experience of blindness? It seems the riddle of a sphinx. But that’s exactly what co-directors Peter Middleton and James Spinney and cinematographer Gerry Floyd aimed to do in Notes on Blindness, one of Sundance’s most visually arresting documentaries.
In 1983, academic theologian John Hull went totally blind. To help process this trauma, he kept an audio diary. Maintained for three years, this soul-searching journal articulates the impact of blindness on Hull’s relationships, consciousness, identity and dream life. These tapes formed the basis of his book Touching the Rock, which neurologist Oliver Sacks called “the most precise, deep and beautiful account of blindness I have ever read.”
Middleton and Spinney discovered the book in 2010 when researching a project on the blind experience of snowfall. [...]