USA, 93 min.
Directed by Jonathon Narducci
Programme: Love, Factually (International Premiere)
On the opposite side of Ukrainian sexual politics to Ukraine is not a Brothel is Love Me. The doc follows a host of characters who, for one reason or another, decide to look online and travel overseas to Ukraine to find love. Though some of these men are divorced and others have never dated, it never feels as though they are viewed through a condescending lens. All of the beautiful, depressing, and fumbling moments of modern dating are available for viewers to see, but with even more of an outsider bent.
Following characters as they set out on dating tours across Europe, Narducci focuses on them and the practices of two international dating services that offer their clients a means of connecting with potential partners across the world. These “mail order bride” organisations promise a chance at love for those who feel they have exhausted their prospects at home, and the characters who draw on their services makes for a fascinating documentary.
Examining the cultural differences between the United States, Australia and Ukraine, interviewees provide subjective and objective evidence to why the notion of love and the sanctity of marriage are so important. Some want to build a family while others fear dying alone, each of which begs the questions Narducci frankly poses: does this industry really work? Is it really worth the money and cultural barriers?
“It’s a constant challenge and it will take much work,” one character tells us. “But then again, so does every other relationship.” Like anyone trying to forge new relationships, the characters in Love Me are complicated and driven by different motivations. Some are so desperate for companionship that they miss red flags flying in front of them, while others create meaningful partnerships with the people they meet. The experience is humanizing, breaking much of the myths surrounding “mail order” dating websites.