Images and Ethics

Kirsten Johnson during filming in Rwanda. Photo: Gini Reticker

Kirsten Johnson engages students in the moral dimensions of documentary filmmaking

In October 2015, Gaudino partnered with the WindUpFest (formerly Williamstown Film Festival) to host a day of programming dedicated to documentary film making and ethics.  Over brunch with 100+ community members, faculty, staff, and students from Williams, Bennington College, and Vassar, documentary cinematographer Kirsten Johnson (CitizenFour, The Oath, This Film is Not Yet Rated, Pray the Devil Back to Hell) and director (Innocent Until Proven Guilty) shared her ongoing ethical struggles as a filmmaker. Of the event with the 2017 Guggenheim Fellowship winner, former Gaudino Scholar Lois Banta said, “Kirsten is an uncommonly intuitive, warm and gifted reader of people, and my impression was that she had every person in the audience completely enraptured.”

In March 2016, Kirsten Johnson returned to Williams for a three-day residency. She met with a total of 74 students in five classes and had lunch with the student film club. Over dinner, Johnson and students discussed the influence of who tells a person’s story on what gets told.  An Oakley Center conversation with faculty/staff and students focused on the development of empathy.

As part of this residency, which was co-sponsored by the Healy Fund, Images Cinema screened Johnson’s latest film, Cameraperson, and hosted a post-film discussion with the director for an audience of almost 80 people. According to the news release describing the film, which premiered at Sundance 2016, “Drawing on footage she’s shot over the course of 25 years, documentary cinematographer Kirsten Johnson searches to reconcile her part in the thorny questions of permission, power, creative ambition, and human obligation that come with filming the lives of others.”