I am a huge fan of independent films -- although very few independent films exist anymore. It is basically a movie on a 10 million dollar budget versus a 20 million dollar budget. Anyway, one of the most interesting independent films out there is Heading South, which you may have heard of due to its story in The New York Times. Heading South is about three trashy, tawdry, post-menopause, North American tramps who are looking for big, black Haitian men to splash up inside their pink coochies -- honestly, that really is the plot! Placed in a 1970s tourist resort, before Haiti was gutted out in the 80's, the film follows the lives of these rich white women who are lonely, desperate, privileged and more than anything ... horny.
The Haitian men are prostitutes and prance on the screen in Speedos with their package flopping between their legs like a fish out of water. Full frontal nudity scenes, lustful kissing and more sex than a Porky's film, the movie sometimes morphs into soft porn. The three women are emotionally unstable (this is pre-Prozac), who get NO attention from their white male counterparts, and use these "bucks" to make them feel loved. However, each of the women comes to learn that life in Haiti is not love dust and shugah plums when the "savages" of the island actually enter the resort and mildly taint their privileged lives.
Heading South is a complex film and borderline offensive for the full ninety minutes. Being "almost offended" in every scene takes away from the over sexualization of the black men. One minute you are hearing a graphic story of how a white woman molested a teenager and fucked him like an animal, and then you are completely mortified with a racial slur. Obviously this was the director's (Laurent Cantet) intention to offend you and pull the mask off of these delusional women who feel they are doing nothing wrong on their vacation. In one scene one of the male prostitutes are mildly dressed up and not parading around in a skimpy bathing suit when one of the women says in disgust, "He looks like a black man from Harlem!" Yes, it was offensive, but it was real, honest and bold.
The exchange of money and sex is continuously uncomfortable not because of the sex, but due to the way the men are "serving" the women in every way ... in one of the first scenes all of these half-naked Haitian men are surrounding the white women like they are on a plantation with a beach. Not only do you witness economic exploitation, but you are seeing black male sexual exploitation that has never been presented this ferocious on screen. The very first scene opens with a Haitian woman trying to give away her daughter to a random man because she knows her daughter will eventually be raped and killed. Laurent Cantet holds nothing back in the suffering of Haiti and presents life on the island through gender, race and disturbing sexual exploitation.
The film has been widely attacked for the way that hot, horny, heat-seeking white women are portrayed -- which is exactly why I sent to see it! The women go through powerful monologues detailing all of their success in North America, but more importantly, their constant loneliness. Haiti is where they feel appreciated, loved, admired and beautiful -- even if it is only a Mandingo fantasy. When the white women are broken-hearted you barely have any sympathy or respect for them ... they are tourists ... pimps ... and the equivalent to white male tourists traveling to Asia searching for the "best prostitutes in the world."
Heading South definitely speaks volumes of untold truth. White women (mainly European) hunting down big, strapping black men is still a huge phenomenon that takes places in Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Trinidad and many other places across the Caribbean. The movie and topic is something I have never seen before on film. While there are some definite plots holes, scenes that could've been developed and moments that left me saying, "Why the hell did that happen?" there were countless redemptive qualities that left me moved. The acting was nearly flawless and I believed every character.
I give this film 3.5 out of 5 stars, which is pretty good considering every movie I have seen in the past year I would give no more than two stars!
Labels: MOVIE REVIEWS