Sunday, July 26, 2009

Love on Delivery & Ticket to Paradise

In Thy, a region of northern Denmark, there are over 500 Thai women married to Danish men. Apparently it all started with Niels who went to Thailand as a sex tourist and met Sommai in Pattaya. They returned to Denmark and got married. Sommai's success meant that she has become the go-to woman for Thai women from her village who want to leave Thailand and marry a white man.

Love on Delivery is the first of two documentaries on this process. It follows Kae, Sommai's niece, who is visiting Denmark on a 90 day visa in order to find a husband. With no time to learn Danish Sommai teaches Kea some useful phrases "Good morning", "good night", "I have a headache", places an advert in the paper, teaches Kea how to behave with a Danish man -- lots of hugs and kisses. Sommai's friends also enthusiastically pitch in with advice and warnings on a variety of things including the dangers of large Danish penises.

Sommai selects Kjeld a local man (whose mother despairs that he will find a woman) from the replies to the advert and Kea is packed off to live with this quiet smiling bachelor. Neither of whom can speak a word of each other's languages. A Thai-Danish dictionary borrowed from the library becomes necessary to negotiate the basics of domestic life. Sommai pushes the relationship along by chiding Kea for ignoring the advice on daily hugs and kisses. Eventually as time is running out on Kea's visa the couple is put on the spot. Do they want to marry each other or not?

The Danish government uses a bond system to ensure that the marriages are "genuine". The couple (i.e. the husband) pays about $20,000 which the government returns after 7 years if the couple are still together! The Thai brides have to return to Thailand after the marriage until their residency application is processed.

No secret is made of the fact that the Thai wives intend to send money home to their families, and many do factory work in Denmark to earn this. What is not always made immediately clear to their potential Danish husbands are the children these women have in left behind in Thailand and that they want to bring to Denmark too. Here the government says that the child has be reunited with its mother within two years otherwise it is deemed to have had its parental bond broken.

Ticket to Paradise follows one such couple as they go to Thailand to negotiate with the reluctant Thai father to hand over the child. The two films were made about 5 months apart and include many of the same couples. The explicit tying together of love and marriage with economic security will sit uncomfortably with those who feel that love and marriage are so "sacred" that they shouldn't be linked to other concerns. As far as we the viewer can tell these marriages with the big cultural difference, economic tie-ins and in some cases big age differences seem to work. How much this is due to love and how much it is due to the cost of failure is not explored (and perhaps not explorable). Do concerns beyond love enter into our relationships? Is this a bad thing?

Ian's rating 3/5

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