Cannes 2012: Trailer & Early Reviews Of Controversial Austrian-Produced Drama On Sex Tourism In Kenya

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by Tambay A. Obenson
May 18, 2012 12:38 PM
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We missed this in our Cannes 2012 previews.

A project I first wrote about in February, and didn't realize was screening in competition at the festival. I was reminded of it, as reviews have started coming in, given that it screened today.

Austrian filmmaker Ulrich Seidl’s drama Paradise, which follows 3 individual though interconnected stories of 3 women in love in 3 different locations, and is now being released as three separate feature films, instead of 1 -  Paradise: LoveParadise: Faith and Paradise: Hope.

Paradise: Love, the first, which is screening in competition at Cannes, is set in that Kenya and centers on a 50 year old white woman, sister of a missionary and a mother, who gets involved with a Kenyan "beach boy" as the director describes the character on his website, until she realizes that, in short, this relationship of theirs is really just business - aka *sex tourism*. 

Ulrich describes the woman as a "sugar mama" who's desperate to find love and acceptance, and at the behest of a friend, she goes on vacation to Kenya, where she hopes to find what she's missing, and hooks up with some young Kenyan stud who may or may not be really interested in her, and who may or may not be a hustler/male prostitute. 

Of course!

Where to begin with this... there's so much here to uncover, analyze and critique; but I need to learn more about (see) the project before reaching any conclusions. But from an Afrocentric POV, history isn't on the side of films like this. 

As I noted in my first post on the project, Paradise: Love reminds me of Laurent Cantet's 2005 film Heading South (or Vers le sud) in which the filmmaker breached a similar topic (although set in Haiti not Kenya), but, by some accounts from those who've seen both films, handled the material better than Seidl does here.

It's actually an idea/theme that's ripe for exploration, even though this won't be the first time, and presents lots of opportunities to dissect matters of race, class, globalization, and subjects that seem to have been rendered taboo; my concern, as always, is just how the filmmaker (often what we'd call an "outsider") carries out his/her exploration; the direction and POV taken. 

Here are 2 brief reactions to the film I've read as of the time of this post, after its screening today:

From Cédric Succivalli, president of the International Cinephile Society and Cannes insider: 

PARADISE : LOVE is beyond abominable, I want to forget about it right now.

Alrighty then! Tell us how you really feel Cédric :)

And from Twitch:

Ulrich Seidl's PARADISE: LOVE Doesn't Flinch, But You Might... confrontational, often ugly depiction of different forms of desperation and exploitation set against a sex tourism backdrop, and indeed, the audience seemed split between vehement disgust and fervent praise.

Ahh... one of those polarizing films. Got it. Like I said, we'll just have to wait until one of us here at S&A sees it.

It's worth noting that director Seidl's film have always been very frank, raw and controversial; he had some trouble financing this trilogy; the other 2 films, by the way, will be:

- A woman who spends her vacation proselytizing with statues of the Madonna until her husband, a Muslim, comes back from Egypt. They sing, they pray and they fight. "Wandering Madonna" is a filmic Pieta with the stations of the cross depicting a marriage.

And...

- Dietary Camp (working title) - the third story shows a young woman, overweight and curious. While her mother goes to Kenya, she spends her holidays at a dietary camp somewhere at the Semmering. There she falls in love with a doctor,  40 years older. She loves him with the exclusiveness of a first love. He however fights it – knowing that this cannot happen.

A preview/trailer of the the seemingly controversial first film Paradise: Love, has surfaced, and I embedded it below for your first look at it:

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10 Comments

  • Jah | May 21, 2012 11:26 AMReply

    I cannot wait to see this film for two reasons. Its so controversial enough where it has both blacks and whites talking. The blacks believe that they are being exploited and the whites believe that these kind of things don't in fact happen especially with someone that can easily pass as their mother or aunt etc. This movie is going to sell. White men suffering from black penis envy will run to check it out(did you know that white men account for the most in sales for Urban Porn ..more than 80%). White women who either secretly or overtly curious for the black man will follow suit. Black men who enjoy getting over on white women will check it out. And black women who are just mad that black men do this will check it out. In reading the film review responses I can see right away how it is affecting the psyche of folks. Instead of accepting it as a film that seeks to tell the truth and offer various perspectives as to why these things take place. Those who watch it internalize their own personal truths as to why it happens or choose not to accept it as fact. This is just years and years of the scars or racism, sexism, and prejudice at play. Just like Cédric Succivalli, president of the International Cinephile Society and Cannes insider comment "PARADISE : LOVE is beyond abominable, I want to forget about it right now." Really... I have seen films like "love beats the hell out of her" the first time I every walked out of a theater as a bad film. Anyway what he witnessed was what could have been his mother or aunts back being blown out by some black stud who was also paid for his troubles and I believe that bothered him hence his response. Instead of an academic response as to how he viewed the film because after all he is president of the cinephile society. The film was just abominable.. so nothing about the story line or structure or cinematography or actors being bad. This movie was just bad because.....it told the truth. Well controversy sells hope to see more movies that dare to tell the truth no matter what it be in the near future.

  • Micky | May 20, 2012 4:00 PMReply

    Why they always get the fat ugly white women for these interacial movies white men are something else ...beautiful 40 and 50yr old white actresses need not apply for movie(Angel Heart-Lisa Bonet,Halle Berry and Billy bob thorton,Kerry Washington etc...get the fuck outta here---Racists making movies about racism while being racist

  • TrueStory | May 23, 2012 5:37 AM

    I have holidayed at the Kenyan coast since I was a child and the women have a lot more wrinkles than this actress. This is a true representation of what these"couples" look like. These boys/men will "date" any tourist black or white whom they believe can support them financially.

  • Stacie | May 19, 2012 7:28 AMReply

    As far as sex tourism, I think it would be a great documentary subject. No one really talks about it but what do you think those college kids are doing when they go backpacking across europe.

    Men have always done this, gone to impoverished countries and used their money to "party" with local girls. Now that women are more independent and have their own money to travel, they are doing the same thing. Men have also had the "mail order bride" thing and now you have foreign men trying to convince "western women" that they are in love with them so that they can get married and get that coveted green card or visa.

    It's very interesting how it's ok for a man to marry some young poor russian girl and bring her to the states but it's disgusting when a woman marries some young kenyan man and brings him to the states. Also, this is happening all over Africa, even in north africa as well as the Caribbean. I've heard about the young guys in the Dominican Republic trolling for single female tourists to romanticize.

  • Mick | May 20, 2012 4:05 PM

    I agree 100%..we need movies for us BM&WF...you ever notice how it doesn't quite work out...right?...notice these story lines in ghis movie?

  • Miles Ellison | May 18, 2012 8:59 PMReply

    This looks transcendently, pretentiously bad. Other than the subtitles and the intellectual pretension, what's the difference between this and the many sub genres of porn that feature overweight women or interracial coupling? Actual penetration?

  • Cherish | May 18, 2012 3:18 PMReply

    So used to seeing women of color used as prostitutes for White men, but watching Black men used in this manner just seems more... humiliating. Yuck. We are a conquered people.

  • JMac | May 18, 2012 6:28 PM

    More humiliating - nahhh. I'd say men who put themselves in this position still have more control and power than the women and girls. Definitely sick all the way around.

  • Jazz | May 18, 2012 3:08 PMReply

    I only watched this trailer because the description said the woman was 50 and I thought no way that lady in the picture is 50 years old! Then I saw the REAL woman. Yes, she is 50...and a BIG 50 at that. The sex trade is an interesting subject because whenever I travel to large tourist locations abroad, I see these young men with these old wrinkly ladies. I always assumed the women were buying the men things. Never thought they were straight up paying for sex. Now that I know it's true, not sure if I care enough to watch "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" the wrinkly white lady version.

  • Sergio | May 18, 2012 2:09 PMReply

    Funny I didn't miss it...

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