“Where Are You Taking Me?” is an immersive sensory journey through Uganda that travels through the vibrant streets of Kampala to the rural quiet of Hope North, a refuge and school for survivors of civil war. This lyrical film offers multi-faceted portraits of Ugandans and their country, while interrogating the perspective of a cultural outsider, the touristic gaze, and the challenges that arise in cross-cultural representation.

CRITIC'S PICK!

"An amazing journey...In her impressive documentary feature debut, Kimi Takesue interrogates the outsider's gaze while still offering an expansive wide-angle view of contemporary Uganda."

  - Eric Hynes, Time Out- New York
Synopsis: 

A high society wedding, a movie set, a beauty salon, a women’s weightlifting competition: these are a few of the many places in Uganda visited in Kimi Takesue’s lyrical feature documentary, “Where Are You Taking Me?” Employing a strikingly visual, observational style, Takesue travels through the vibrant streets of Kampala to the rural quiet of Hope North, a refuge and school for survivors of civil war. The film offers multi-faceted portraits of Ugandans and their country, exploring the complex interplay between the observer and the observed. This cinematic journey interrogates the perspective of a cultural outsider and questions notions of the familiar and the “exotic”. Where are we going... and what will we find?

Structured in a series of stylized observational vignettes, WHERE ARE YOU TAKING ME? explores the rhythms of everyday life in Uganda. By focusing on the commonplace, the film counters stereotypical images of Uganda that emphasize the horrors of war, poverty, and victimization. Moving from one revealing encounter to the next, WHERE ARE YOU TAKING ME? recreates a heightened sensory experience of global travel and explores the challenges that arise in cross-cultural representation. Within the film, the question “where are you taking me?” moves beyond curiosity into a confrontation of the politics and ethics of the documentary contract.

Reviews

"Beautiful, fascinating… scenes appear as artfully composed as a painting (and some reminiscent of famed painters). But these are found moments, and they have movement and character as well as poetry ... an unusual, visually rich visit to the nation."

- David DeWitt, The New York Times

"Beautifully meditative ... an uplifting observational documentary that plays on seeing and being seen."

- Jay Weissberg, Variety

"Wonderfully composed images... A poetic corrective to lingering stereotypes." 

- Ernest Hardy, LA Weekly

10 stars out of 10!

“What does Where Are You Taking Me? have to do with you, Western viewer, as you piece together bits of stories, as you fit them into your own experience? How are filmmakers responsible as they transport and share such stories? And how are viewers responsible to what they see? Beautifully, achingly, Where Are You Taking Me? asks these questions and more.”

  - Cynthia Fuchs, PopMatters

GRADE “A”!

Marvelous!...The film doesn't dispense with the horrors of the wars, it just mitigates the pain by finding in the people, the countryside, a revivifying beauty. The movie is both a representation of and a testament to healing.

- Peter Rainer, The Christian Science Monitor

"Stellar... Takesue's documentary took the explosive subject of former Ugandan child soldiers in an unexpected direction; instead of choosing the usual routes of investigative journalism or bombastic commentary, the film keeps its distance from the traumatized youngsters and observes them with detached empathy as they readjust to 'normalcy'." 

- Richard Porton, Cineaste

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

"A precisely observed, gracefully contemplative, and gently self-reflective portrait of contemporary Uganda."  

  -Rob Sica, Educational Media Reviews Online

"An extraordinary postwar Uganda dream flight. Takesue’s askew angles, sealed-off compositions, and embrace of return glances foster the strange beauty, humor, and disorientation so rare in the global glut of hard-drive-dump docs." 

- Nicolas Rapold, The Village Voice

"Inspiring depth of purpose in this lyrical film...Takesue traveled alone with a camera to post-civil-war Uganda in 2010, shooting ambling, vivid footage that captured both street rhythms and rural rituals as she moved between urban Kampala and the open spaces of the countryside. There are no subtitles, narration or expert witnesses, only a generous immersive eye."

- Steve Dollar, The Wall Street Journal

“Alert to the inherent imbalance in power between the Ugandans being photographed and the filmmaker who traffics in their images, and sensitive to the scarcity in the West of images from Uganda other than those used to support accounts of war, disease and poverty, Takesue decided to film only scenes of everyday life and present them without narration, explanatory texts or subtitles. …I’m grateful she brought me along for the ride, to see everyone and everything in WHERE ARE YOU TAKING ME?”

-Stuart Klawans, The Nation
Director's Commentary: 

Where Are You Taking Me? is a film that speaks to the beauty and rhythms of everyday life in Uganda. The film charts my travels through Uganda, from the kinetic energy of urban life to the tranquility of rural areas. In exploring the nuances of everyday life, the film challenges the dominant and prevailing images of Africa that focus only on the horrors of war, poverty, and AIDS. Outside of East Africa, there are very few representations of Uganda that reach beyond the sensational and stereotypical.  In contrast, Where Are You Taking Me? offers unexpected images of a complex country, and challenges viewers pre-conceived notions of where we are going and what we will find.

Where Are You Taking Me? was commissioned by the International Film Festival Rotterdam in the Netherlands, as part of a special series on African Cinema. Twelve international filmmakers, who had never traveled to Africa before, were invited to visit different African countries, research the local film scene, and facilitate connections between local filmmakers and the Rotterdam Film Festival curator, Gertjan Zuilhof. Both local filmmakers and foreign filmmakers were then commissioned to make work in a particular country and given complete artistic license.

I was particularly excited to participate in this project because my film work often deals with various kinds of cross-cultural encounters. I’m interested in the meeting point, when people from different cultures come together and search for a mode of communication. My work often explores the process of “looking” cross-culturally and the interplay between the observer and the observed.  I went to Uganda without a specific agenda or set of expectations. As a one-person crew, I had a great deal of flexibility with my time and method of working. Rather than execute a specific plan, fraught with expectation, I responded to what unfolded and emerged during the journey. Often, I would station myself in a particular place and observe with my camera. Over a period of time interesting interactions would surface as people approached me and interacted with the camera; these relationships were constantly changing and in flux. A group of children might initially clamor for attention but then become bored and move on. I was interested in this interplay between observation and engagement, voyeurism and intimacy. 

Where Are You Taking Me? is primarily an observational film; there is no voice-over narrating the journey. No translations are provided. No attempt is made to explain or definitively inform the viewer about Uganda. Instead, the film re-constructs my sensory impressions of people and places, by concentrating on the images, details, colors and sounds that left an impact: a high society wedding, bustling city streets, a nightclub filled with music and laughter. The film captures moments of visual inter-connection and disconnection---voyeuristic fascination and fleeting intimacy. Throughout the journey my presence as a filmmaker is constantly felt through the eyes of the camera---looking and being looked back at.

Where Are You Taking Me? is a question that applies to the viewer, the Ugandans in the film, and to myself, as the filmmaker. For the subjects represented within the documentary the question “Where are you taking me?” also moves beyond curiosity into a confrontation of the politics and ethics of the documentary contract. How will these images be disseminated and consumed? Sometimes the question registers in a subject’s eyes, less often it is stated—as it is several times in this film.  It is an inquiry that can never be fully answered, and one that implicates both the filmmaker and audience.

Where Are You Taking Me? invites the viewer to come along on a journey to Uganda—to watch, to listen, to experience and to reflect.