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Upcoming Controversial Austrian-Produced Drama "Paradise" Tells Story Of Sex Tourism In Kenya

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by Tambay A. Obenson
February 9, 2012 11:35 AM
8 Comments
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I've been following this project but just haven't written about it yet, mostly because information on it has been sparse. But a new development today prompted me to finally post something about it.

Austrian filmmaker Ulrich Seidl’s drama Paradise, which follows 3 individual though interconnected stories of 3 women in love in 3 different locations, is now going to be released as three separate feature films, instead of 1.

One of those 3 stories that's now going to be its own inidividual movie with Kenya as its working title, is set in that east African country and centers on a 50 year old white women, 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 the project before reaching any conclusions; as I said, details on it have been sparse, and still are. 

It reminds me of a 2005 French film titled Heading South (or Vers le sud) which stars Charlotte Rampling as one of 3 older white women who visit Haiti and indulge in all kinds of carnal desires with the young Haitian men they pay money to. Essentially, white women in their age bracket, in their own countries, aren't as *in demand* or as exalted as they might be in a poverty-stricken nation full of black Africans - speaking to that age-old belief that Caucasian women, regardless of all else, are like kryptonite to black men. 

Their value in what we could call the *sexual marketplace* rises significantly when they leave their world and enter the *other*. 

I'm not sure if Ulrich's film will carry a similar tone, transferring the action from Haiti to Kenya; we'll have to wait to see until more is revealed. 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 and make commentary on matters of race, class, globalization, and subjects that seem to have been rendered taboo; my concern, as always, is just how the filmmaker will carry out his/her exploration; the direction and POV taken. 

It also doesn't comfort me when the filmmaker is from the majority, dominant, controlling group, and the story is told from the perspective of a character who belongs to that same group.

But the entire 3-film project will reportedly be ready in time for the Cannes Film Festival in May; and if S&A is there again, as we were last year, we'll get our first crack at it and all my questions will be answered.

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.

Till then... I'll continue watching its progress. Hopefully we'll get some media soon, like stills, a trailer, etc.

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8 Comments

  • a reader | February 11, 2012 5:25 AMReply

    Very interesting that they made a movie about this. It happens A LOT. I saw quite a bit of it in West Africa as well (Gabon and Senegal). The opportunistic young men know EXACTLY what the white women are there for and are happy to give it to them (pun intended) in exchange for euros/pounds, stays in the hotel, nice dinners, etc., etc. Very weird to watch.

  • Vanessa | February 10, 2012 10:27 AMReply

    I saw "Heading South" which was really well done. In that film, it wasn't a matter of these white women being "kryptonite" to black men; they led pretty pathetic lives and paid these young Haitian men for pleasure. These young black men weren't really into these women. On the contrary, the lead black character was pretty miserable himself. If these women didn't give them money or gifts, these young men wouldn't be in the beach with them all day.

    Anyways, I'm curious to see how this subject matter will be treated in this film.

  • urbanauteur | February 10, 2012 9:44 AMReply

    Check out austrian-auteur Ulrich Siedl's "Models"...

  • Donella | February 9, 2012 3:10 PMReply

    I watched the 2005 Heading South with Charlotte Rampling movie a few years ago. What I noticed was the disregard with which the younger Haitian men treated the older European women until the women gave them money. I believed the men regarded the sexual tourism very much as a business arrangement, while the women had a tendency to get caught up.

  • Melissa | February 9, 2012 2:07 PMReply

    In Africa(especially Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Zambia and Rwanda) it's predominantly old white men and young african girls. But I can see how the reverse is more controversial and will bring more white women to watch since it's starring them.

  • Cherish | February 9, 2012 6:48 PM

    Most people believe that old White men are in Malaysia or Thailand chasing young girls there, not in Africa going after women there. Hmmm.

  • sandra | February 9, 2012 1:47 PMReply

    Look for an American remake starring a 90 year-old Betty White. It would probably be set in New Orleans against a backdrop of Katrina. She would of course be a wealthy (fill in the blank) looking to help those devastated by the storm; however, the focus would soon turn to her carnal needs. A lot of disrespectful, hurtful and stereotypical BS gets put out there under the guise of art. SMDH

  • Jeremy | February 9, 2012 12:57 PMReply

    Doggone it. i have to speed up on the project ive been working on depicting similar themes...

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