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Ulrich Seidl’s Polarizing ‘Paradise’ Trilogy Acquired By Strand For USA Release (Other Territories)

Ulrich Seidl’s Polarizing 'Paradise' Trilogy Acquired By Strand For USA Release (Other Territories)

A quick recap… Austrian filmmaker Ulrich Seidl’s Paradise franchise of films, 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, has been picked up for USA distribution by Strand Releasing, with a 2013 release for all three films planned, starting in the first quarter.

The trilogy of films has also been sold in Austria (Stadtkino), Belgium (Lumière), CIS (Maywin), Denmark (Ost for Paradis), France (Happiness), Germany (Neue Visionen), Greece (Feelgood), Italy (Archibald & Academy2), Luxembourg (Lumière), Netherlands (Eye Institut), Norway (AS Fidalgo), Poland (Against Gravity), South Korea (World Cinema), Spain (Golem), Sweden (Triart) and the United Kingdom (Soda Pictures).

So our readers in all of those territories should expect to see the trilogy of films soon enough.

The first film in the franchise – Paradise: Love, which premiered in competition at Cannes earlier this year, is set in 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. 

There’s so much here to uncover, analyze and critique; but I need to learn more about (see) the project before reaching any conclusions. However, 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 quite well.

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. 

Some reactions to the film, from those who’ve seen it:

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.

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. We might get a TIFF review, so look out for it.

It’s worth noting that director Seidl’s films have always been very frank, raw and controversial; he had some trouble financing this trilogy; the other 2 films, by the way, will be Paradise: Faith, whic is also now screening on the film festival circuit:

– 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… Paradise: Hope

– 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.

We’ll be watching out for the other 2.

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

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