Heading South (Vers le sud)
Directed by Laurent Cantet, 2005;
Haut et Court/Sévile/France 3/Studio Canal;
108 minutes, French and English

Video-Clip Source: SodaPictures

Coming For Colonialism
Michael Caylo-Baradi

Read Full-Text at Latin American Review of Books

LAURENT CANTET’S Heading South (Vers le Sud) is a film about sex tourism, with the sex tourists in this case citizens from the north, specifically Canada and the US. The setting is Haiti under Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier in the late 1970s.

The sex-tourists are not our usual suspects but white women, over 40 and the objects of their desire are young men from Port-au-Prince.

At the heart of the story is a love-triangle between two of the women tourists and a young man; the “bitch[es] in heat” are Ellen, played by Charlotte Rampling, and Brenda, played by Karen Young. The young man these women are crazy about is played by non-professional actor, Mènothy Cesar as Legba.

To cushion the cat-fights between Ellen and Brenda, Cantet uses the French-Canadian Sue, played by Louise Portal, as occasional referee. Sue seems to know when to move out of the way, when the cat-claws are out, and since Sue has her own young man, Neptune, she safely admires Legba from a distance.

Ellen and Brenda’s rivalry starts to evolve upon the latter’s arrival from Altanta, Georgia, in Petit Anse Resort. At 48, Karen looks slim, somewhat attractive for her age, and ready for a good time; but she had met Legba three years before, when he was 15. It was then that Legba gave Brenda her first orgasm, at the age of 45. Legba, therefore, defines a milestone in Karen’s life as a woman - he is Brenda’s orgasm. Legba bookmarks Brenda’s life, before and after her first orgasm experience.

But now Legba is 18 and the most desired escort among the women tourists. Outspoken and aggressive, Ellen does not hesitate to let Brenda know Legba’s status in the resort: that he is meant to be shared. But the memory of Brenda’s first sexual encounter with Legba heightens her advances towards him. When Ellen realises that Legba responds to these advances, Ellen notices, and foresees complications, because she understands her desire for Legba has found a rival in Brenda.

The competing desire for Legba among these two women is our window into the strength of their characters. Brutal, this clash propels the story; it is the Caribbean “hurricane” or calamity that spins Legba’s fate out of control, even though he projects calm demeanor to save his masculinity from being castrated by hysteria.

Besides being a resort escort, Legba has another life outside the hotel complex. The film reveals that he has relations with other women in Port-au-Prince, especially those from rich families. But his life outside clashes with his life inside the resort. On the day Legba takes Brenda around Port-au-Prince, a four-door Mercedes Benz tries to run him over and then its driver chases him with a gun. Later, when the resort and its patrons have gone to sleep, a Benz dumps two naked, dead bodies in its grounds: one of which is Legba’s. Ellen and Brenda are shocked and confused, that they are not in paradise after all.

After talking to local police about apprehending Legba’s assassins, Ellen talks to the resort’s manager, Albert. A son of resistance fighters, Albert has inherited his parents’ brutal and unapologetic views of white people and when he listens to Ellen, he merely listens as though anything he would say to comfort her is useless because words are inadequate to explain the Haiti that exists beyond the borders of the resort.

Soon, Albert takes Ellen to the airport for her flight back to North America, and home, and she can, at least, anticipate consequences when things happen. But for Karen, the resort is only the first leg of her journey into the Caribbean; the names of the places she wants to visit fascinate her: Cuba, Barbados, Martinique, Trinidad, Bahamas. She seems ready to put Legba behind, although he, no doubt, serves as a reference point for what she expects in Caribbean men, in her sex tours.

Layers of Poverty

Cantet’s realism, in this film, is convincing and can be nauseating; it feasts on the melodramas, pornographies, and dynamics of sex tourism to a point where the facade of tourism disappears and what we see is unapologetic desperation to satisfy basic human needs: food, sex, money, and love. Desire binds these elements together as Haiti: Haiti as state of distress, need, and eroticism. Here, the narrative interrogations of desire take place in familiar terrains that often highlight concerns in post-colonial and neo-colonial social-relations: poverty, labour, and race.

Read Full-Text at Latin American Review of Books


espanhol said...

gostaria muito de assistir este filme, e aqui no Brasil nao encontrei nada a respeito desta obra. Até mesmo download nao encontrei na net. somente neste site encontrei a referencia e comentários e fiquei muito curioso.
Por favor me dê mais informações. dipaix@uol.com.br

Michael said...

I think the best way to find more information about this movie is to contact a France-Brazil community in Brazil. I found one, and here's the link: http://www.comunidadefb.com.br/web/.

But here is something better. There is a film festival of French films in Brazil next month. The films are shown in different cities in Brazil. Now this festival has a website, and there's an email address in the website you can use to ask where you can find the movie "Vers Le Sud" in Brazil.

This is the email address: festival@festivalcinefrances.com

This is the festival website: http://www.festivalcinefrances.com/festival.php

The organizer is: UniFrance.

I hope this helps.

In Portuguese by Google:

Eu acho que a melhor maneira de encontrar mais informações sobre este filme é para manter contato com uma comunidade França-Brasil no Brasil. Eu encontrei um, e aqui está o link: http://www.comunidadefb.com.br/web/.

Mas aqui algo melhor. Há um festival de cinema de filmes franceses no Brasil no próximo mês. Os filmes são exibidos em diferentes cidades no Brasil. Agora, este festival tem um site, e não há um endereço de e-mail no site, você pode usar para perguntar onde você pode encontrar o filme "Vers Le Sud" no Brasil.

Este é o endereço de email: festival@festivalcinefrances.com

Este é o site do festival: http://www.festivalcinefrances.com/festival.php

O organizador é UniFrance.

Espero que isso ajude.

Hem said...

thank you
this blog very nice

Michael said...

You're welcome. Thanks.