The film is Kristen Johnson's Cameraperson. It was included on the Academy's shortlist of nominees back in early December, was incredibly well-received by critics, and already has a Criterion Collection release. But it did not make the Final Five.
A boxing match in Brooklyn; life in postwar Bosnia and Herzegovina; the daily routine of a Nigerian midwife; an intimate family moment at home with the director: Kirsten Johnson weaves these scenes and others into her film Cameraperson, a tapestry of footage captured over her twenty-five-year career as a documentary cinematographer. Through a series of episodic juxtapositions, Johnson explores the relationships between image makers and their subjects, the tension between the objectivity and intervention of the camera, and the complex interaction of unfiltered reality with crafted narrative. A work that combines documentary, autobiography, and ethical inquiry, Cameraperson is a moving glimpse into one filmmaker’s personal journey and a thoughtful examination of what it means to train a camera on the world.
In some ways, I guess it's eventual non-nomination isn't terribly not surprising. It's an unusual film structurally, with almost no story (or even much in the way of themes) holding it together. Every now and again, a single thread can be identified between a series of mostly-disparate images, and there are a couple of different stories that keep coming to the fore. But for the most part, they come off as beautiful, self-contained (and mostly unrelated) visual snippets.
There is something holding them together, of course: Johnson herself. And while she appears in the film for mere seconds of its 102-minute running time, she's visible in every single frame. You just need to know where to look. It's currently streaming on AMAZON PRIME. (If you really want to watch a nominated film, though, NETFLIX INSTANT has Ava DuVernay's blood-boiling 13th. And AMAZON PRIME has Life, Animated.)