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Paradies: Liebe
IMDB Rating: 7.0/10 from 16 votes
Release: 3 January 2013 (Netherlands) /

Paradies: Liebe

Genre: Drama
Director: Ulrich Seidl,
Stars: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: On the beaches of Kenya they're known as "Sugar Mamas" -- European women who seek out African boys selling love to earn a living. Teresa, a fifty-year-old Austrian and mother of a daughter entering puberty, travels to this vacation paradise. She goes from one beach boy to the next, from one disappointment to the next and finally she must recognize: On the beaches of Kenya, love is a business. Written by Strand Releasing

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Critic Reviews


I saw this film at the Ghent filmfestival 2012. We were told that it was the first of three related films, the two successors to be named 'Paradise: Faith' (already released), and 'Paradise: Hope' (to be released in 2013). Quote from festival announcement: "On Kenya's beaches they are known as 'sugar mamas': European women who seek out African boys selling love to earn a living. Teresa, a 50-year-old Austrian woman, travels to this vacation paradise. 'Paradise: Love' tells of older women and young men, of Europe and Africa, and of the exploited, who end up exploiting others."

The festival screening took place in a fully booked venue (225 seats). More than half (very unusual) of the people stayed for the final Q&A with the principal actor (Margarete Tiesel), and there were (also unusual) many relevant questions. She admitted upfront that she had not read the script prior to shooting (though she did after wards). She is a professional actor, but the African boys are all amateurs.

What struck me the most when watching this film, is that the "boys" never ask money for their "services" in a direct way. Rather they always seem to have a family member in financial difficulties, badly in need of financial support, medical bills being the most common story. We see that happen on Terese's first trip outside the hotel, where her "boy" takes her to his sister (not really, as we see later on), and subsequently a school teacher. Each one has a sad story and needs money. And when she does not cough up enough money, the boy refuses to be touched anymore. On her second trip Teresa seems very aware of all this, recognizing it as standard operating procedure. She starts playing along without feeling awkward about it, and gradually appears to have found her way in this "game".

In the final Q&A the subject "exploitation" came about several times, apparently without easy answers. It is not exploitation per se, when both sides look happy with the arrangement. She talked with several other women there with ample experience in the matter. Some bought for instance a motor bike for her African "lover", or even a house, and travel a few times per year to the area. The "boys" speak one of the usual European languages (English, German, etc); which one is dependent on the area. Yet, while the story progresses, we nevertheless observe a certain language barrier, several times causing misunderstandings about mutual intentions.

All in all, this is a remarkable feature film bordering on a documentary about sex tourism. We have heard about sex tourism in Thailand, particularly for men. This time it is about women with money to spend. The film clearly demonstrates to us how it works. What the films shows is very explicit, even to the extent that we see Teresa explaining to the "boy" how she prefers to be touched, and we closely observe him learning which way works best for her. This scene marks the duality of their respective roles, not parasitic but rather symbiotic. Showing all this in a natural way, without too much embarrassment for us viewers, is an achievement in itself. I scored a 5 (out of 5) for the audience award when leaving the theater.

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