At the outset, cinematographer Kirsten Johnson asks us to consider this collection of footage she shot for various documentaries as her memoir, because while only a few actually depict her personal life (as mother to twins and as daughter of an Alzheimer’s sufferer), she says that “these are the images that have marked me and leave me wondering still.” (It is not difficult to see why, but in case you need help, there’s a scene wherein a woman who counsels victims of a mass rape in Serbia wonders, “How do we free ourselves of these stories?”) Johnson’s camera works hard to bear witness to the struggling world — an aspiring boxer, a busy Nigerian midwife, an Alabama single mother seeking an abortion, a Muslim family in the aftermath of ethnic cleansing, and more. But it works almost as hard to find life amid the death and love amid the ruins, to understand what makes the struggle worthwhile. Put briefly, she earns her juxtapositions of wildflowers and barbed wire. By the end, it’s clear that the arrangement of scenes has been thoroughly artful, and that Johnson is quite justified in her initial request. (2016) — Matthew Lickona
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