There’s a levity to Where Are You Taking Me? that makes it feel like a feather in the wind compared to the rigid, fact-heavy way most documentaries might survey Ugandan society. Appropriately, it moves like one as well, lightly touching on its vignettes of quotidian life with the respect of simply looking and listening before moving on to its next point of focus. Kimi Takesue was asked to make the doc for the Rotterdam Film Festival as a director who had never been to Africa, and her outsider status is never hidden from us; there’s no pretensions that she has anything to teach us other than what we might glean from her collection of seemingly random, somewhat poetic images, which are memorable because of their lack of pedantry.
The open, honest attitude with which Takesue approached her project seems to have invited unusually piercing questions and glances from some of those on the other end of her travel cam. They want to know where she’s taking their images to. “New York,” she replies matter of factly. These exchanges may quickly shorten the mental distance any of the film’s American audiences might have between themselves and the featured Ugandans, and at once allow us to reflect on our own voyeuristic role in the global film marketplace, causing perhaps a tinge of embarrassment as we see them helplessly, suspiciously question the purpose of the film, one which has no counterpart in Ugandan cinema (when was the last time you saw an African filmmaker follow you on your way to work with a camera?).
The children filmed exhibit the most excitement about being on camera, revealing the jadedness of adults who may have previously been victims of false portrayals in the media and/or cultural tourism. Overall, Where Are You Taking Me?‘s tone is upbeat, a film that conveys its director’s happiness to be traveling in Uganda, and one smart enough to not bite off more than it can chew.
Instead of compiling facts and figures, Where Are You Taking Me? revels in the simple joys of finding something that captures the eye and paying attention to it. This works both because it gives us the chance to vicariously be in the coveted position of amused tourist and frees us not only from the burden of the information-overload practiced by many documentaries, but from the weight that even light commentary can have on images that, as the film proves, can carry the film on their own. Its these qualities that make Where Are You Taking Me? refreshing, like some oxygen in a stuffy room crowded with formally monotonous documentaries.