OnlookersDirected by Kimi Takesue
Honorable Mention (Breakout Features), 2023 Slamdance Film Festival
There is a scene near the end of Kimi Takesue’s languid observational documentary ONLOOKERS that mirrors a scene from her previous film Where Are You Taking Me? (SDAFF ‘11). In both, a fixed camera records schoolchildren walking by, curiously gazing back at the lens, confronting its imposing presence with varying degrees of audaciousness. However, while the earlier film documented various scenes of everyday life in Uganda, Takesue’s latest turns her camera onto Laos and the cultural and economic dynamics embedded in its tourism industry. Takesue’s documentary work has consistently interrogated the act of looking and the role of the camera, particularly within contexts of intercultural exchange between foreigner and native, while also never letting herself off the hook.
But this film isn’t necessarily merely about evil tourists and an exploited class of locals who are always ready to offer themselves up as photographic subjects – that would be too easy. Instead, Takesue foregrounds place, humorously juxtaposing scenes of tourist and local recreational sites and the different ways that various people inhabit it. ONLOOKERS implicates the viewer in the act of watching people watch people, and invites us to rethink the ways that we consume the places we visit, the selfies we take when we’re there, and the films we watch from the comforts of home.
– Justin Nguyen
Filmmaker scheduled to attend.
Screening to be followed by Q&A.