The film Paradise: Love, a film directed by Austrian director Ulrich Seidl which was aired during prime time at 21 pm on 5th September by SVT (Swedish Television). The film depicts sex tourism in Kenya based on Teresa, an Austrian woman who travels on a charter flight to Kenya and Imbalance of power between her and the men she met was obvious. Ulrich Seidl is a provocative filmmaker that often shows unpleasant and repulsive sides of the human being with the purpose (according to him) that spectators will be able to recognize themselves. The characters in his films are often those that deviate from prevailing social ideals like overweight, elderly, poor or disabled however the lack of empathy is visibly absent (in his work).
In Paradise: Love there is clear over explicit reproduction of stereotypes about (black) men who sell sex and the (white) older women who come in search of love. The men lie and fool the women on money with concocted stories about relatives in hospital. The women are biased (read: openly racist) and cynical or as in Teresa's case, shifts from excited and shy to disappointed and totally oppressive.
From the white male perspective that dominates the film, the black man is never more than props in a story about the tragedy of an elderly woman's longing for closeness and intimacy.
Paradise: Love also contains a number of sequences that can be perceived as grossly insulting in its repeated allusions on historically reductive stereotypes about black men. An example is a nearly ten minute long scene where a black man's genitals literally are the main focus. While stripping and being humiliated by the four (paying) white women, they(white women) accompanied their orders with ape sound and names like “wild beasts”
In the Afro phobia report published by the Multicultural Centre early this year stated that Afro-Swedes are the minority group that are often exposed to hate crimes and are also vulnerable to discrimination. The report also underlines how the Swedish cultural world is characterized by a lack of diverse images of blacks and of Africa. It speaks of real presence of stereotypical representation. As an Afro-Swede in that context, to switch on the TV and watch Paradise: Love is according to CinemAfrica compared to a visual punch in the face.
The image supplied by the film of the black (male) is disturbing especially when they are one of the very few depictions of Africa films in SVT's movie selection
Since SVT(Swedish Television) rarely sends movies with African directors' perspective, the western media images (e.g. Paradise: love) are completely dominant by how the continent and its people are perceived.
This could be problematic especially during election time when this kind of movies can be distorted.
SVT's display of Paradise: Love can be linked to a general ignorance of the diversity within Swedish cultural institutions. In the choice of cultural productions, we need to relate to questions such as: Who is portraying? Who is portrayed and how? In what context is the portrayal presented? In which historical context of representations is the portrayal? What other images are available for this category of people depicted? Who are the viewers? And how does the portrayal speak to different categories of the beholder?
Original text in Swedish by CinemAfrica
Translated by Skandik Afrik