USA, LAOS | 2022 Director: Kimi Takesue
Visually immersed with beautiful cinematography in this documentary feature, in the festival's Breakout category, one first appears to be celebrating travel and tourism in the country of Laos with filmmaker Kimi Takesue’s ONLOOKERS. The longer the journey Takesue shares the more she raises questions as to the reasons why people travel and tour foreign lands.
Some of those reasons we know are simply to satisfy curiosity, to explore the world, or to learn new cultures and languages.
Takesue uses very little dialogue in her slow-moving narrative in order to emphasize the sights and sounds of travel. Maybe it’s to rest and intake different smells, or to simply observe the behavior of those traveling in the country, and of those native to the land. Takesue reflects on how we all live as observers. Many admit that they are people watchers. Many love to watch birds. Many love look at what their eyes behold and take the time to enjoy it. What is the take-away from watching people, animals, or the land? Is this a time of rest to observe, accept, or ponder the sights, or, is it play by engaging in athletic activity, or play (maybe like a game) to observe and compare?
Takesue looks-on at students taking in the sights as well as, taking photos of them at the sight-seeing location. Some are interested, and some look bored. Some are simply tired. She asks why take photos of oneself while in another country? For memory’s sake, to document that one has been there, or because that's what people do that travel? Or, is there another reason?
Takesue presents another side of photojournalism of tourists. She asks if taking photos of others and their cultural habits is an invasion of one's privacy. In observing and taking photos of another's daily life activity that is not their own, she wonders why this is important? She wonders and asks, "What type of vacation is this?"
Takesue's ONLOOKERS gives food for thought and questions if one is culturally sensitive of the people, their traditions and lifestyle when traveling and touring to foreign countries. I am influenced by Takesue's message. The next time I adventure abroad, I will put myself in the shoes of those I am observing, and ask why is this important? What will I do with my documentation if I photograph?