[UPDATE: Cameraperson is now streaming on Amazon Prime.]

“Things means things.” That’s what my high school poetry teacher used to say as I blinked at seemingly unrelated elements of a poem.

Now I know what he means. The details of our lives, however arbitrary, will talk with one another if they are set side by side. And they will reveal patterns, obsessions, fears, and priorities.

Case in point: what is, so far*, my favorite movie of 2016: Cameraperson, a documentary by Kirsten Johnson.

A lot of you will probably stop reading right there: A documentary? You don’t go to the movies for a report, right? You want to be caught up in a visionary work of imagination.

Well, “documentary” isn’t the best word for Cameraperson. It’s more like a mystery or a puzzle. Johnson, a cinematographer who has worked on some of the most provocative documentaries of the last 25 years, has cleaned up the cutting room floor and selected excerpts for an exhibition: fragments from between the scenes that “mattered,” throwaway segments of interviews, and excerpts from her own home movies.

Cameraperson, a film by Kirsten Johnson, is my favorite film of 2016.
Cameraperson, a film by Kirsten Johnson, is my favorite film of 2016.

She takes these “deleted scenes” and casts them like tea leaves across the big screen. A boxer, before and after an important fight in Brooklyn. A toddler who picks up an axe. A flash drive—buried, secrets and all, inside an active cement mixer. A newborn baby gasping for breath that might not be enough. An interview with a Bosnian counselor for rape victims; another, with a filmmaker full of unresolved rage toward her mother. A candid conversation with Johnson’s own mother, who is vanishing into an Alzheimer’s fog.

And she asks us to pay attention.

Read my full commentary on Cameraperson in my weekly column at Christianity Today: “Viewer Discussion Advised.”

And then, pre-order the upcoming video release from The Criterion Collection. (You’re unlikely to find Cameraperson in theaters at this point.)

There are so many important 2016 releases that I have yet to see, due to the heavy demands of my 50-hour work week. But I don’t think I’m going to see a film that affects me as powerfully, or that excites me as cinematically, as Cameraperson.