Why do we travel to foreign lands, and what are we hoping to find? How do we distinguish between our preconceived projections of nations and the reality of what's in front of us? In her impressive documentary feature debut, Kimi Takesue interrogates the outsider's gaze while still offering an expansive, wide-angle view of contemporary Uganda. She eloquently employs the vocabulary of objective cinema---prolonged static shots, fly-on-the-wall perspective---to paint a knowingly subjective portrait that's somewhere between Cubist travelogue and epic poetic reportage. A young man sits placidly in the chaotic swirl of cars and pedestrians moving along a hectic city street. Takesue pointedly and playfully punctures our exotic notions of wild Africa: A shot of a fiercely fanged lion pulls back to reveal Day-Glo--shirted schoolkids at a zoo; children laboring in a rock quarry turn out to be participating in an on-location film shoot.
Though the country's social and political ills are left largely out of frame---an AIDS-awareness T-shirt makes a memorable cameo---we're never allowed to forget that we're trespassing. Passersby glare into the camera, and subtitles are never furnished for non-English dialogue. The only time a subject directly addresses Takesue, it's with a doozy of a query: "Why are you taking my story to USA, New York?" The answer is as complex as the film itself, and as simple as deciding to not look away.
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