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Who does not want see a new film by Ulrich Seidl either is not interested in cinema as an art form that has unique capabilities in peeling off the layers of pretty colours coating much of our lives. Or he has never heard of Ulrich Seidl. There can’t be another reason, honestly. When seeing “Hundstage” (“Dog’s Days” years ago, I was shattered by the frankness and cruelty with which Seidl depicts his own culture, his own people. I was amazed that people are able to do that, because in modern cinema you see very little of it. He does that again in “Paradies: Liebe”, and now I think I understand why this is his perspective: he tries to like these people, despite all their flaws and seriously (seriously!) unpleasant features. Paradies: Liebe is about women traveling  to Kenya in order to get a sunburn and get laid. What they are doing is a variation on sex tourism, and here goes out the first praise to Seidl and co-writer Veronika Franz: You could make a big point about taking the sex tourism topic, objectification of the poor locals for carnal pleasure, self-deception about your motives and your inner goodness by the foreign visitors, and turning it upside down by placing not very young and not very attractive women to be the sex tourists, reversing gender cliches. They do no such thing. This is just the way it is here, and if you expect female sex tourists in Kenya to be any less questionable characters than their male beer-bellied counterparts in Thailand, then this film is very educational.

The “Liebe” in the title stems from the main character’s desire to find something more, to find the appreciation through the male hookers and gold diggers that she does not find at home in Austria anymore. Of course she knows this is all a big lie and whatever she will get, sex, affection, compliments, will only have to do with her relative wealth and her citizenship. But she, like all the others she is with, insists on lying to herself, the only difference being that she suffers more under the obvious discrepancy between her reality and her purchased dream.

Needless to say that the film is utterly without mercy when it comes to depicting the ways in which people who at home never experience the feeling of power, dominance, of being at center stage suddenly realise they can have all that for a fistful of dollars. They abuse the need of their local lovers (or sex slaves, more accurately) in painful ways, and seem to be eager to find out how far they can go in their abuse until somebody finally would break or skip.

It is not a very nice experience to be shown what kind of a messed up creature humans can be, but I love Ulrich Seidl and his films for frequently insisting that it is necessary to look into this kind of mirror.

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