On CAMERAPERSON and Ladies Shooting Punks

By Shotgun CinemaPublished on 06/22/2017

Due to our mobile status, it’s not often we’re able to screen films two night in a row, so we’re particularly excited to be sharing films in two different locations with you this weekend. We’ll be in Bywater tomorrow to present Kirsten Johnson’s critically acclaimed documentary Cameraperson at the Tigermen Den, and we present our monthly Full Aperture screening with the New Orleans Photo Alliance on Saturday with Ladies Shooting Punks.

Each screening is quite different in terms of content, but they share a spirit of bucking gender normativity in unique ways. Johnson’s work as a cinematographer is practically an anomaly: as of 2016 figures, female cinematographers comprise a staggeringly meager 5 percent in the film industry. Her consistent work demonstrates not only her talent behind the camera, but her tenacity to forge a path for herself within a technical field that is dominated by men. Sarah Jacobson, whose film I Was a Teenage Serial Killer screenings in Ladies Shooting Punks, was completely self-driven: she embodied the DIY philosophy entirely by creating, distributing, and promoting her own work. After her death in 2004, Jacobson’s mother and friends created an annual grant for female, transgender, genderqueer, and gender non-conforming filmmakers to continue Jacobson’s fiercely independent and intersectional feminist legacy.

Kirsten Johnson has shot dozens of seminal documentaries over the past twenty years, working with award-winning filmmakers such as Michael Moore, Kirby Dick, and Laura Poitras. Her film smartly grapples with her role as a cinematographer, a position that creates a physical and psychological distance between herself and her subjects. Her camera acts as both recorder and coping mechanism: in one scene, she’s interviewing survivors from Bosnia and Herzegovina about their lives, and in another, Johnson is trying to communicate who she is to her Alzheimer-afflicted mother. Johnson is able to create a compelling and nuanced autobiography through her footage that’s unparalleled. The critical praise for her film is mirrored in the awards given to her bold work.

The work of Peggy Ahwesh, Sarah Jacobson, and Greta Snider exists on the fringe: their 16mm films capture female transgression, queerness, and independence. Emerging from punk scenes in different parts of the country, these filmmakers captured the ethos from the movement and applied it to their filmmaking. Punk wasn’t just music to these women; the DIY-nature of shows and promotion encouraged a visual style that’s beautiful in its grittiness. Ahwesh’s The Vision Machine features a lesbian dinner and dance party that’s delightfully rowdy, intercut with a woman sharing raunchy jokes. I Was a Teenage Serial Killer is Jacobson’s hilarious and angst-filled slasher film whose protagonist is a young woman who gleefully offs sexist men. Greta Snider joins two friends on a hitchhiking and train-hopping trip in Portland, and she films and re-creates brushes with the law, bad weather, and their arguments as they move from city to city. Her film is a portrait of female independence through travel, but in a way that gives the finger to more traditional female travelogues like Eat, Pray, Love. Each of these films present energetic and multifaceted visual style, unabashed confidence, a smirking “f*ck you” in the face of cisgender patriarchal norms. – AC




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