Kathy, Joanne, Kabul discussed on Fresh Air
Having trouble remembering things and I think you know it was happening around the same time as my mother's dementia. So it was really. Felt connected to her but how is just like wow, I don't even know where I was yesterday and it would have been like just got back from India and on my way to Kansas City, and I couldn't I was like, where was I last week and so I just to wonder what was going on with my memory and I was making a film with a young woman in Afghanistan and the had almost completed when I showed it to her and she said Oh I can't I can't be in this film anymore it's too dangerous for my face to be seen in this film. Now, given the political context in Kabul and I just shocked me I was like what doing like how did I not realize that was coming in the making of this film and so it just felt like I had this world of blind spots and served to go back. To footage that sort of haunted me. I slowly started to accumulate the set of material that were my questions, my questions about humanity, my questions about the work and I wondered if I could put them all together in a film because you know there's so much span of time spectrum of places, different kinds of footage. But what united them all was that I had been there I had been there with a camera and had been there sort of questioning and searching and might encounter with making those images with the people there Stays with me I, am haunted and so it was like, okay. How do I go back into understanding what this is what this work is so we found a way to put it together without any voiceover so that you just experience in many ways as I experienced it with no narration. Was Making the movie or finishing the movie therapeutic for you. I think no question. I. Think basically because. In some ways, I could show a mere back to myself of how. I was how responsible I felt for all of it. You know and and You feel this when you're a camera person because you just you know sometimes you're there at the moment and you're you're infocus, send you and you you let like someone who has never you know like who who lives their own life but has like not has been ignored by the world and shouldn't have been ignored. You're just like your give your like you're pulling a hand through and they're reaching hand through and then they come into the world and they're they're visible where the world has made them invisible and. I love that I love that feeling and then sometimes you're just blowing you know you're like, oh, the lights terrible and something's wrong with the sound or there's a rabbit scratchy in the background and like there is in my house right now and and the footage is you know it has its defects and so as a camera person I wish we'd started filming earlier the. Light. was different or you know but that is your way of sort of struggling with the fact like you're not making it better. Right. In that moment you know that that traumatized person like you shared a moment with them yes. You've film them maybe someone else's GonNa Watch the film but like that things still happen to them they're still living with this thing that happened to them. Three decades ago that they still can't sleep at night and they're not gonNA another not GonNa Sleep again tonight, you know so that the feeling of. I would love to make this world different. And yet I am so inadequate that feeling you know I was going there so much and then with camera personnel realized like, yeah, and and also you know it's not all yours to do. In the movie you say that you don't have any footage of your mom before she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and you said that filming her in that state felt like a betrayal. Can you explain what you meant by the? My mother was just this extraordinary woman with a lot of capacity. She was very fun. She was really interested in other people's welfare. She was really interested in aesthetics she cared about how she dressed. She cared a lot about what other people thought of her like in terms of her religious beliefs she was really trying to be a a a decent person. So if she was going to be seen or transformed into an image, she wanted it to be sharp and I knew that about her and She was anything but sharp in the images that I filmed of her she was confused she was wandering her closer sort of hanging off of her her haircuts not great and she's got that you know scared sometimes scared sometimes distant looking I and I know she would have hated that. That anyone that publicly and when I was showing camera person. I. Many people they were like it's it's so clear how much you love your mother and then I showed it at the Seattle. Film. Festival and you know in this film there's a woman named. Joanne. Tucker who we put her death on the on the screen, she's the woman who made the chocolate cake that nearly killed my dad. The first time gave him a heart attack and Joanne's daughter saw a camera person and she said that was not your mother in that movie. She said Kitty Joe would have hated this and I said Yeah and it just made me burst into tears because she knew my mom. Like nobody else had seen the film my mom. But like she knew it was a betrayal and it was. So. You worked on a film by Kathy liked or called here one day, which is about how after her mother suicide lecture moved into her mother's house and she surrounded by all their mothers possessions and there's a shot that you have in camera person where she's sitting on her mother's bed. Surrounded by all the stuff like these paper bags full of files and papers, and she just overwhelmed and she starts just. Throwing the stuff in the corner and she saying I'm sick of it. I'm sick of it. And then she crawls off the bed. And hides behind it. So you can't see her and she says something like, I totally don't want you to see me right now. But what do you do? I walk around the bed and I go and film her now you get the shot. Yeah. Well, you know Kathy lighter is just incredibly emotionally evolved person and she said to me in the making of this film that we spent nine years making together was you gotta go the places I'm afraid to go. And at the beginning of making that film Cathy could literally not say the word suicide. and by the end of it, you know she's just she's just remarkable her and her father and her brother talking and doing mental health work trying to de stigmatize the shame around suicide just an incredible progression of human experience So she had basically asked me she said even when I ask you not to do certain things, will you do them? Well. Let's take another break here. I'm speaking with Kirsten Johnson filmmaker and cinematographer her newest movies called. Dick Johnson is dead it comes out on Netflix.