Is Malcolm Murray’s “Camera, Camera” an oblique travelogue of Laos from a privileged Westerner’s perspective, a critique of Westerners doing travelogues, or a view of Laotians as exotic poor people and Western tourists as silly escapists? Some of all three, actually, which is the start of the problems for this troubled film, whose p.o.v. and politics are all over the place and yet nowhere at all. Another problem: It’s neither experimental enough to satisfy avant-garde fests nor straightforward enough to attract docu fests.
Opening graphic announces the setting as “Laos,” one of the few direct references (other than revealing closing credits) to a Southeast Asian nation little known even to adventurous travelers. They abound here, white people all, proudly showing Murray’s camera their photos. They’re as banal as could be, while Murray attempts an obvious contrast by intercutting the frolicking shutterbug tourists with his own footage of quotidian Laotian life. One of the interview subjects (all unidentified) makes a cogent observation that outsiders, even those staying in Laos for a while, can possibly understand the people and their culture. Whether that includes this film is open for consideration.