Paradise Lost: Must See New Film Explores The Reality Of White Women And Sex Tourism With Black Men in Kenya

April 26, 2013  |  

In the Paradise trilogy, Australian director Ulrich Seidl divides contemporary European womanhood into three parts: Love, Faith and Hope.

As delightful of a premise as it sounds, this series of films is no Eat, Pray, Love. In fact, most startling, and controversial of the narrative is “Paradise: Love,” a film which follows the sexual misadventures of Teresa, a 50-year-old white Austrian single mother, who explores Kenya through – and on the bodies of – young African men. Unsurprisingly, the film has hit a nerve for some as it highlights another side to the real life sex tourism industry, in which young men in mostly the Caribbean and parts of Africa earn their livings from the fetishes of older and wealthier folks, and in this case, white women. While it is unknown for sure how pervasive this side of the sex trade has become, this article in Reuters suggests that as many as one in five single women visiting Kenya from rich countries are in search of sex: “Emerging alongside this black market trade — and obvious in the bars and on the sand once the sun goes down — are thousands of elderly white women hoping for romantic, and legal, encounters with much younger Kenyan men. They go dining at fine restaurants, then dancing, and back to expensive hotel rooms overlooking the coast.”

The old adage is that money can’t buy happiness, however, in Paradise: Love, we are shown how the subversive nature of capitalism can turn entire countries and its inhabitants into mere commodities for someone else’s attempt at happiness. Teresa, along with three of her other middle aged girlfriends, arrives in Kenya and are welcomed aboard a chartered bus, which will take them from the airport to their beach resort. It is in route to the hotel that the women are taught by an enthusiastic, smiling older Kenyan guide a few key Kiswahili words, which will make their stay in the tropical “paradise” more pleasant: “Djambo,” which means “hello” and “Hakuna Matata,” which we all recall from The Lion King, loosely translates into “no worries.” A few hours after their arrival (as well as some drinks at the bar with her girlfriends and a quick wardrobe change into a swimsuit), Teresa finds herself alone on the beach, surrounded by barefoot hustlers carrying cowrie shelled necklaces, hand-woven bracelets and pocketbooks. The young men rush her, shoving their goods in her face, while vocally clamoring over each other with sell pitches peppered with the familiar salutations of “Djambo” and “Hakuna Matata.” The situation is very well-known to anyone who has traveled outside of the Western World, particularly to places which are economically marginalized. The hard sell. It is chaotic, unnerving and very bothersome. Yet at the same time, being surrounded by extreme poverty – even in places deemed as paradise – can bring a certain level of empathy and understanding. In a country like Kenya, where 45 percent of the population lives below the poverty line and is classified as low-income by the World Bank, everything is a hustle and everything is for sale.

Yet Teresa is not as empathetic or unfazed by the dire circumstances of the hustlers, and actually follows a couple of them back to their homes for paid sex and romance. The romance part is purely subjective. While the Kenyan men guide her around town, teaching her how to do the local dances, treating her to local edibles and whispering expressions of undying love in her ear, the reality is that the men she encounters don’t know how (or want) to be romantic. In one awkward scene, Teresa tries to instruct her partner for the night the proper way to caress her breasts. “You have to first see through me to my heart,” she tells him. But the Kenyan man looks on confused about what exactly she means. Teresa is annoyed but plays into it; mainly for the adventure, which is illustrated by the scene in which she takes a picture of the young man’s private parts as he sleeps. After their late night romp, Teresa falls asleep undressed under a mosquito net. Her young Kenyan lover stands around, smoking a cigarette, watching and waiting for her to rise.

The waiting game is probably the most striking element of the film. In one of the most haunting scenes in the film, Teresa and her girlfriends join a line of middle age white Europeans bathing in the sun on the beach. They lay mostly still and silent out on chaise lounges, half unclothed with their pinkish, pale skin glistening in the sun from a combination of sweat and whatever oily application they applied to get a more even tan. They are massive and look like beached whales. Their size is most marked when compared to the throng of young Kenyan men who stand at attention waiting to serve them. The men stand on the other side of a diving rope, which is guarded by an older Kenyan man in an oversized military uniform. They stand silent and undisturbed, waiting. Like servants dutiful to their masters, they wait. Or like patient hunters stalking their prey. It is really hard to tell at this point who is being exploited here: the people looking for cash or those looking to purchase fulfillment? But we do know that only when the white Europeans rise from their sun-basking do the men come alive again.

This same scenario is repeated several times in the film, including in one scene, which transports the once sun-bathing white Europeans into the resort’s lounge. Now fully dressed, they sit around small nightclub tables, smiling eerily as they listen to a Kenyan band play them some traditional local music. The band, whose members are dressed in matching Zebra stripes, in turn clash horribly with the Zebra striped stage curtains. The music is both beautiful yet performed with little emotion. It is that scene, which reminds me of a childhood birthday party I once had at Chuck E. Cheese’s. I stood around continuously feeding a bunch of quarters into a machine, which when fully compensated, would make the Animatronic robot mouse band come alive and play a birthday song for me. I remember being a kid feeling amused and then eventually disenchanted as once the time on my money ran out, the stage lights went dim, the music stopped, and the once smiling and chipper robotic mouse band slumped over into motionless inanimate objects again. In Paradise: Love, Kenya is Chuck E. Cheese’s and its inhabitants will sing, dance and cater to your every whim – just as long as your quarters don’t run out.

In the ’90s, French filmmaker Laurent Cantet released Heading South, a film about wealthy white women and their hired Haitian suitors (for those interested in watching, this film is currently streaming on Netflix). One of the most compelling characters in Cantet’s film is Albert, the head waiter at the resort. He is from a long line of Haitian patriots who fought probably against the American occupiers, for whom he called animals. In one part of the film, Albert is discussing the shame his long deceased grandfather would feel if he found out that he was serving whites. However, as he poignantly states of his dire situation, “This time the invaders aren’t armed; but they have much more damaging weapons than cannons: dollars!”

The ending of Paradise: Love is not as jaded as Albert in Heading South. I won’t spoil it for you (because I do think it is well worth the watch), but it’s clear that there are some things that money and privilege can not afford. Moreover, even through oppression, the oppressed do have their limits and will exercise their right to resist.

For those in the NYC area, the Paradise trilogy is now screening at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street (between Broadway and Amsterdam). Tickets can be purchased at both the box office and online at


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  • mik bailey

    No surprises here; it’s done in the Caribbean all the time, specifically Jamaica!

  • Moni

    I’m sure she giving herpes money and more. This sounds like the story of how aids got in Africa.

  • Pingback: [video] Paradise: Love -Trailer (White Women Travel to Kenya for Sex) | STREET KNOWLEDGE MEDIA()

  • sister, yes black are also doing this. I heard my friend tell me that all the big fat girls go to Jamica to get down

    • JaneDoe

      Please I went to PR the other day and the scuba guy was so obvious.. He was fione but I would never.. Ewwwwww. Thats their other form of income

  • What does capitalism has to do with this?

  • Lana

    This is nothing new! Some Europeans come to Africa when they retire because they can lead a better life there. They want to have fun and come looking for sex. But some of these young men and women follow them like puppies just because they think that if they stick around long enough, the white women or men will fall in love with them and take them back with them.

  • Guest

    I saw a movie about this a few years ago. It was really disgusting how these women travel around to countries where they are substantial amounts of poor and seek the young men out for sex. Makes one really wonder how AIDS got such a foothold in Africa in the first place!!!! People with money will always feel like they can buy people who are poor. I guess as long as there are poor desperate people, this will continue!!! Is this any worse than black men traveling to Brazil to have sex with Brazilian prostitutes!!! All of it is just despicable!!!!

    • MissRealuminatti

      IMO, I have always believed the AIDS epidemic got started from whyte males (gay or straight) that had sex with male/female prositutes. It’s a dark taboo secret hat the media does not want us to know

      • SMHgurl24

        It got started when people who had aids (which started in africe I believe) had sex with others. a### sex is just one of the ways it spread, females do it too so no it never started only from gay males.

  • Kenedy

    I’m intrigued by the story, but I don’t like how this piece was written….I mean did you really have to go into a whole rant about Chuck E Cheese and a gum ball machine? Really? & btw, its Jambo, not Djambo, no D there.

  • just sayn

    This sure doesn’t surprise me, but DANG! You mean they now are targeting Black Stuff in Kenya too, Geeeezzzzz, hard up Nasting, do anything women, it’s not enough that they move through what’s left of the USA Black male, now their being targeted over seas wow! Desperate, they are spreading all their mess and evil everywhere! YUK!

  • And black men frequent Eastern Europe, the Caribbean, and South America for these types and more. Seriously.

    • …. which is *precisely* why i’m surprised about some of the judgment in here.

      when i lived in the dominican republic, people would tell me that the black american sex tourists [male *and* female] were *worse* than the european ones when it came to attitudes and how they treated people outside the bedroom.

      • Shhh…don’t inject facts and reality in this thread

      • JaneDoe

        EAxactly.. This is nothing new under the sun.. This kind of behavior has been happening..
        If you go on vacation to any carribean resort you can get some action.. women/men whatever.. They are not going just for the smokey smoke anymore.

        • JaneDoe


    • Julonda

      Yes black men are fascinated by white women. Lots of brothas doing that now.

  • Julonda Carmichael

    I figured as much. These white women think they are something when they get a black man or mixed baby, I see it all the time. Every brotha that goes out with these girls regrets if. Most of them say something is wrong with her for chasing black men. I interact with white women everyday and most try to flirt with black men. It is not suprsing they are going somewhere for a little action. If he lays that pipe right she will get him a visa back to her country. Where are all the good brothas at now ? Most are either,gay,in jail, or on drugs. I think smehow ther has been a conspiracy against them somehow. I work as a massage therapist and most of the men customers are white.They like for you to accidently see their stuff. No wonder the white woman is trying to find out is some myths are true. Well I think it is despde what they say in my online Women`s Studies. The white men are drawed up.

    • SMHgurl24

      Did you really say all the good brothas are either in jail or do drugs?? Good god woman you need to expand your horizons!

  • Prissy

    white women are DISGUSTING pigs. To heck with them all.

    • *Leaves before black man rage reaches boiling point*

    • Kasiola

      How many white women do you know. You can’t like something or someone unless you yourself possess a like characteristic. It’s called when u point the finger at someone there are 3 pointing back at yourself

    • I thought black people couldn’t be intolerant or even racists!

      • SMHgurl24

        You said it yourself don’t inject reality into this thread. Just smile and nod like you always do when you see a crazy person O.o

    • Julonda

      You are right what do our men see in them ?

  • Yuck! How hard up do they have to be to have go to a different continent in order to get laid?

    • chanela

      especially since they’re white. supposedly they’re already desireable to the whole world….

    • MissRealuminatti

      I hope they using condoms…AIDS!!!

    • mik bailey

      its the adventure and they have money!

  • kickash

    This makes me think of the boss lady from Awkward Black Girl who went to Jamaica and brought back a man named Jamiroquai lol.

    • kierah

      I ain’t bringing nothing back from my vacay besides a tan and a T-shirt.

    • Najeema Iman, I AM Curly Locks

      I was thinking the same thing…..

  • rita

    Kenya is a known sex tourist destination, mostly by men seeking women (and sometimes men). It’s Africa’s Thailand. I mean, I bet there are a handful of women seeking men there, too, but prostitution is 95% a man’s game. But Lord knows as soon as women or BM are involved it has to get put on blast. #mediatricks #smh Not saying this isn’t gross, but the selective media attention is interesting…

    • “it’s africa’s thailand”

      i was looking for the words. there they were. thank you.

      • chanela

        or brazil?

        • MissRealuminatti

          Brazil, has a lot of black American males looking for Brazilian slores.

    • MissRealuminatti

      Once again, it’s a way to make the blk man look more desirable than the blk woman. It’s a dark taboo how whyte men secretly lust for black women. The media just loves to show bm/ww combos.

    • michaelderrick

      i can’t believe you are jealous of this, you black women are getting desperate, hateful and pathetically bitter.

      I know kenya well, there is much prostitution and it usually black on black. This ladies are going to a very specific place, called mombasa beach, and no there aren’t many white men there, they usually go to east europe or Southeast Asia. Either way who want to sleep with an old white women or man, you think they are doing it because they like it ? This is pure exploitation. It is just sad !

      • rita

        Im just saying that the original post presents the documentaries as portraying prostitution as a fantasy where fully consenting twentysomething Kenyan men are gigalo-ing for rich white American women under super nice conditions when in reality in Kenya it’s 13-17 yo girls being forced into sex slavery by pimps. I don’t know why you want to deny the actual fact that Kenya is a major sex tourism hub from Europe/America/etc (google it). You seem like a BW hater, and the fact that young black girls are used this way is actually degrading and horrible, so I would think your sort would like that.

      • xania

        voice your opinion without being offensive and disrespectful. Your ignorance speaks volumes over the message you are trying to get across. No one race or gender can be generalised into a category, I suggest you travel out of your habitat in order to learn that. God bless you.

        • michaelderrick

          butt hurt much… you are probably one of those black women if you are offended by what i said !

  • maggie


    • Trisha_B

      I actually watched this documentary that talked about how many white women went to jamaica to sleep w/ Rasta men lol