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: Love, Paradise: 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.
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.
- 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: