Onlookers offers a visually striking and immersive meditation on travel and tourism in Laos, reflecting on how we all live as observers. Traversing the country’s dusty roads and tranquil rivers, we watch as elaborate painterly tableaus unfold, revealing the whimsical and at times disruptive interweaving of locals and foreigners in rest and play. Drawn to spectacle, tourists swarm to magnificent Buddhist temples, the intriguing rituals of monks, and sites of dazzling natural beauty, then recede like a passing tide, leaving Laotians to continue with their daily lives.
Onlookers transports viewers on a sensorial journey of deep looking and listening, inviting audiences to reflect on their own modes of tourism, while asking the looming existential questions: Why do we travel? What do we seek?
Onlookers was supported through Kimi Takesue’s 2018 Chicken & Egg Award.
ABOUT THE DIRECTOR
Kimi Takesue is an award-winning filmmaker and recipient of Guggenheim and Rockefeller Fellowships in Film. Other honors include two fellowships from New York Foundation for the Arts, an Eastman Kodak Cinematography Fellowship, and grants from ITVS, NYSCA, and Arts Council England. She is a six-time fellow at Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony. Takesue’s feature-length documentary 95 and 6 to Go was nominated for the prestigious 2017 Doc Alliance Selection Award and screened at over twenty-five international festivals including CPH:DOX, DOK Leipzig, Doclisboa, FIDMarseille and DOC NYC. The film was awarded a Special Jury Award at both the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival and Indie Memphis. Commissioned by International Film Festival Rotterdam, Takesue’s acclaimed Ugandan documentary Where Are You Taking Me? screened at Rotterdam, MoMA’s Doc Fortnight, and the LA Film Festival. The film was theatrically released by Icarus Films, was a Critics’ Pick by Time Out New York and LA Weekly, and was described by The New York Times as, “Fascinating…an unusual, visually rich visit to the nation.” Takesue’s ten films have screened at over two hundred festivals/museums internationally including the Sundance Film Festival, the Locarno Film Festival, New Directors/New Films, SXSW, and the Museum of Modern Art, and have aired on PBS, IFC, Comcast, and SundanceTV.
ABOUT THE CO-PRODUCERS
Richard Beenen is a visual artist, photographer, and producer whose fine art and video art have been exhibited at MoMA, Museo D’Arte Contemporanea Roma, White Columns, Los Angeles Museum of Art, Viper-Basel, Courtisane Festival, and the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Richard has co-produced numerous award-winning documentaries and short fiction films that have screened at film festivals and museums internationally including Sundance Film Festival, International Film Festival Rotterdam, SXSW, Los Angeles Film Festival, Locarno Film Festival, and MoMA.
Sophie Luo is a producer & filmmaker. She has produced a number of commercial campaigns, digital shorts, and films, including the 2018 Grammys campaign for Gap featuring SZA, Metro Boomin, and Awkwafina; a short film for Justice Democrats featuring Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and an award-winning documentary directed by Kimi Takesue. Her additional clients include Nike, TED, Timberland, Facebook, Be A Hero, Clinique, NYU, Cîroc, Camelback Ventures, MAC, Eddie Bauer, National Institute of Reproductive Health, OneOcean Beauty, and more. Her short film Closing Annisa won the Golden Reel Award for Best Documentary Short at the 2021 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival and also played at the Athena Film Festival, Anchorage International Film Festival, Omaha Film Festival, and as part of the closing night at Seattle Asian American Film Festival. In 2021, she was selected for the Women In Film’s inaugural Emerging Producers Program.