Film explores a community in Denmark where Thai women are settled
A highly original Danish film explores the relationships that develop between Thai women and Danish men in Denmark have been viewed by over 1 million viewers and is centre stage at film festivals across the world.
When Danish filmmaker Janus Ketz was initially pitching his documentary film to Danish TV, they wanted him to make a film about Danish men in Thailand but he insisted that his story be about Thai women who had the 'courage of poor women to grab hold of their own destiny.' The Danish filmmaker's movie has turned on its head the stereotypical representation of the relationships between Thai women and Danish men that has already resulted in calls for stricter laws from some groups in Denmark and other Scandinavian countries where Scandinavian men are increasingly likely to marry Thai women.
Janus Ketz's film is called 'Love on Delivery' and the director attributes the success of the film to his approach in confronting prejudicial views on marriages between Thai women and men in Denmark: 'We were able to do that because we had so much confidence from our participants, that we were going to do something that was really going to represent them and that didn't have a lot of prejudice from the outside,' he told an interviewer recently.
'Love on Delivery' centres on the growing network on Thai women who have married Danish men in a Danish community where nearly 600 Thai brides live with their Danish husbands in a remote region in the West of Denmark near the North sea. The film has already become the single most watched documentary on Danish TV.
The original background to the film is the life of Sommai, a Thai woman and former sex worker, who met a Danish man one night in Pattaya. Sommai and her Danish husband are now married 15 years and living in Denmark. Not only is their marriage successful but this calm and beautiful Thai woman, whose name in Thai means achievement, has gone on to create the thriving Danish-Thai community that is now flourishing in Denmark. Ketz's film centres on the preparations and marriage of a new Thai bride, 32 year Kae to her proposed new Danish husband, a 38 giant of a man who succumbed to depression and loneliness after a previous failed marriage in Denmark. The man's mother, in the film asks 'I can't believe why you still cannot manage to find a girl'. The Dane, we are told, before meeting his Thai bride took a daily cocktail of anti depressants and openly admits to his mother that 'nothing has ever worked out' for him. In the film, which is almost like a fictional tale, Kae eventually agrees to marry the Danish man in Denmark and the blonde 38 year old giant tells the viewers 'the first weekend spent with Kae was the best time of my entire life.'
In making 'Love on Delivery' Ketz employed the services of an anthropologist, Sine Plambech to study Thai communities in Denmark and their dynamics and confidently deals with criticism that his film is on dangerous ground portraying the Thai Danish marriages and relationships based on economic and emotional needs as a success; 'There was a lot of prejudice about these men being abusive', the filmmaker admits. However instead he found Danish men 'very proud of their wives.'
'I like the men, I think that there is something very beautiful in their search for companionship and love,' the directors says. Ketz warns about prejudice against the phenomenon pointing out that the marriages between the Thai women and Danish men were generally successful. 'We are dealing with lonely men and poor women, why kick them when they are down,' he says. 'Who's to judge if it's good or bad.'
Ketz says that the plight of Thai Women in his film resonate with his experience in making a film about African migrants to Europe who he did not see themselves as a victims but rather 'people who take a very active decision about their own lives.' He goes on to point out that his film has all the hallmarks of a Danish fairytale: 'a fairy tale is the perfect narrative for these tales…you have a hero who is going to make a journey, who needs to become himself, find his own sexuality. He points out that the men in his film 'blossomed as men in terms of gender or sex, they were able to live up to their idea of being a man, which they'd had problems with before.' He described Sommai, the Thai woman who founded the Danish Thai community in Denmark, as the fairy godmother of the tale.
Ketz's film offers a moving insight into the relationships between Thai brides and their Danish husbands in Denmark. The interaction between the Thai women themselves as they deal with problems is fascinating to watch.
Ketz has described his films as fairytales in the best tradition of Hans Christina Andersen, the famous Danish storyteller. However in the 21st century his films are very successful a they explore the dynamics of an extremely complex but fascinating social movement. They raise many questions but it is perhaps more than a hope to think that women like Sommai, the leader of the Thai women in this small Danish community will find the answers. Where there is a will there is a way.
- We see the future Danish husband of a Thai woman explaining how he fell in love with a photograph while the Thai women coax 32 year old Kae, the Thai bride from Thailand, to declare whether she is prepared to marry the Danish man or not.
- The Thai women, under the direction of the founder of the community, Sommai, the fairy godmother of the group place personal ads looking for a 'decent husband' for other Thai women. Sommai later declares 'where there's a will, there's a way' when faced with a tough situation.
- The Thai women coach the 32 year old Thai Bride Kae in Denmark on how to be a Danish Thai bride encouraging her to say Good morning an Good evening while kissing her husband. She is also advised, when short for words to ask, if the food tastes good.
- Film maker Ketz and his anthropologist assistant Sine Plambech, have also produced a sequel to 'Love on Delivery' called 'Ticket to Paradise' which, unlike his first film, is also shot in Thailand and deals with the plight of a Thai woman forced to make a choice to become a sex worker in Pattaya. The film also continues the story of Thai brides in Denmark. This film, also as in the story of the founding godmother Sommai, sensitively deals with the story of prostitution in Thailand and the attitude to prostitution in Thai society.
- Most of the women in Thailand see working in the sex industry not as an end point but as a stepping stone to a better life. 'We wanted to emphasise that,' the filmmaker declares.
- Metz sees the story of Thai women migrating to Denmark as one dealing with globalization and social phenomena in western societies.
- Metz also points out that the relationship between each Thai bride and her Danish husband, in his films, is unique particularly about how they deal with the extended family in Thailand and the migration of children from Thailand to Denmark.
- Questioned about whether his films might be perpetuating a stereotype about Thai women, he admits that the films 'explore the border between marriage, migration and prostitution. 'It's an economy of desire and longing and forsager (an expression in Denmark), the idea of economic care giving, that you are able to provide for your family. We wanted to show the complexities of that.'