72 mins.
Directed by Kimi Takesue

Director Kimi Takesue joins us in person for a post-screening conversation.

This screening is free to Amherst Cinema Members.

ONLOOKERS offers a visually striking, 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 ordered 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?

“Revelatory!... ONLOOKERS presents the viewer with a series of modular, fixed-frame images of both locals and tourists in Laos. With exacting compositions, Takesue observes tourists as they seek the physical artifacts of Buddhism—temples, statues, monks at work—lured by the promise of Eastern exoticism... ONLOOKERS provides a piercing and ironic examination of seemingly benevolent cultural consumption.” – Michael Sicinski, FILM COMMENT

About the filmmaker: Kimi Takesue is an award-winning filmmaker working in documentary, experimental and narrative genres. Takesue’s films have screened at more than 250 film festivals and museums internationally including Sundance, Locarno, Toronto, New Directors/New Films, Cinéma du Reel, Centre Pompidou and MoMA and have aired on PBS, IFC, and the Sundance Channel. Takesue is the recipient of Guggenheim and Rockefeller Fellowships, as well as the “Breakthrough Award” from Chicken and Egg Pictures recognizing women who have made significant contributions to the documentary field.

Takesue’s feature documentary 95 AND 6 TO GO, a portrait of her Japanese American grandfather in Hawai’i, was nominated for the 2017 European Doc Alliance Award and screened at over twenty-five international film festivals, including CPH:DOX, Doclisboa, DOC NYC, and Dok Leipzig. The film won the Special Jury Prize for Best Documentary Film at Indie Memphis and the Los Angeles Asian Pacific International Film Festival. Takesue’s critically acclaimed Ugandan feature documentary WHERE ARE YOU TAKING ME? was commissioned by the International Film Festival Rotterdam and premiered at the festival, followed by screenings at MoMA Documentary Fortnight and the Los Angeles Film Festival where it was a Critics’ Pick by Time Out-New York and LA Weekly.

Takesue’s films have received positive reviews in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Variety, Bomb Magazine, The Nation, and The Christian Science Monitor, among others. Her films are distributed by Women Make Movies, New Day Films, and the Criterion Channel. Takesue is Professor in the Department of Arts, Culture and Media at Rutgers University-Newark.

This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. To find out more about how National Endowment for the Arts grants impact individuals and communities, visit