Blog Assignment 01/19/2012

Dear all,

Here’s your blog assignment for this week. Select one of the following three interpretations of the film, Heading South, to respond to. Contribute a post providing your reaction to the interpretation you’ve selected, and focus on following the excellent models your peers offered in class today: put pressure on a particular word what impression does it give? etc), provide counter-evidence to challenge an interpretation, define one of the words used in the review but from your perspective and other valid interpretive strategies.

Your blog post is due by midnight Saturday evening, and your response to one of your classmates is due by next Thursday midday.

REVIEWS OF Heading South (2005, dir. Laurent Cantet)


“The film is an engagement with a pattern of tourism and globalization that is inspired by the feminist movement of the 1970s. It is attentive to ethnic and linguistic realities; ultimately, it is a study in solidarities against the many forms of oppression that the North imposes on its women and others”

SOURCE: Françoise Lionnet, “Postcolonialism, language, and the visual: By way of Haiti,” Journal of Postcolonial Writing, Vol. 44, No. 3, September 2008, 227 – 232

REVIEWS OF Heading South (2005, dir. Laurent Cantet)


“The globalisation of the sex industry, and the creeping sense that, like pornography, sex tourism will shrug aside moral objection through the sheer weight of its profitability, is a hot-button topic. Just after this movie was premiered at last year’s Venice Film Festival, the Haitian-domiciled Danish film-maker Jorgen Leth found himself in disgrace after admitting to what was quaintly described as an “affair” with the 18-year-old daughter of his Haitian cleaner – an affair he appeared to suggest was something of a droit de seigneur. Three years previously, Michel Houellebecq’s novel Platform proposed a startlingly plausible vision of a holiday firm offering hypocrisy-free sex tourism in Thailand, a commercial adventure whose fictional catastrophic sequel prefigured the Bali bombings. That novel was much more shocking and more powerful than this movie, however, despite what the two have in common, because it tackles head-on the tougher reality: sex tourism is – of course it is – about men exploiting women. [. . .]

Laurent Cantet’s last two films, Human Resources and Time Out, were brilliant contemporary stories: about how the world of work, blue-collar and white-collar, defines our status and even our existence. Heading South is well acted, but really a disappointingly softcore piece of provocation. “SOURCE: The Guardian, July 6, 2006

REVIEWS OF Heading South (2005, dir. Laurent Cantet)


With a screenplay in French, English and a smattering of Creole by Mr. Cantet and Robin Campillo, “Heading South” is a beautifully written, seamlessly directed film with award-worthy performances by Ms. Rampling and Ms. Young. As Ellen and Brenda compete for Legba’s love, both imagine that they play a larger role in his life than they actually do. The little we see of Legba away from the resort suggests a complicated past. When a gunman goes after him, the women imagine they are the immediate cause of his troubles. They are, but only to the extent that Legba conspicuously stands out in the flashy clothes Brenda buys him. As much as Ellen and Brenda think they understand him and the state of fear that grips Haiti, they are ultimately clueless. SOURCE: NYT, July8, 2006





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61 Responses to Blog Assignment 01/19/2012

  1. Steph. says:

    Sex tourism in Thailand is notorious in the Asian culture. Women going to other countries for sex is not as widely discussed compared to men going to other countries for sex. It is often seen as “slutty” when women do those things, which goes back to moral standard mentioned. Ethnicity was not mentioned, but it is one of the main factors to consider. It is because different cultures have different moral values. The tone of men exploiting women versus women exploiting men makes a huge difference. One might view either side more serious than the other due to gender stereotype. Women from “Heading South” did become somewhat emotionally attached to man they were having a sexual intercourse with; however, some might also think that it is one of the main factors that make sex tourism between men and women different. The gender stereotype is women are more emotional and easily attached compared to men. “Moral” is the word that stood out because some people may find it repulsive and uncommon for women to search for playmates especially in cultures where male dominance gets emphasized strongly. Coming from a mixed ethnic background, it seems that being conservative is crucial and taught to at a young age from my Asian side. On the other hand, my Portuguese side does not emphasize or teach that women should be conservative or behave a certain way. Furthermore, having great moral values seem very important from my Asian background, or else I would be considered a horrible person and having casual encounters is a huge no no of course. I am not religious, so I cannot speak from someone who is religious’ perspective. Monetary and moral values play a huge role in the movie of course.

    • Maria Salazar says:

      Steph, I completely agree with you that society does set a double standard when it comes to this subject. Before even discovering the term “romance tourism” or “sexual tourism” I saw a documentary on sex tourism in Thailand, where it even seemed an accepted social norm in having foreign men soliciting Thai women. On the flipside however, if a woman in that power position were to do so, society would look badly upon it. Even after the feminist movement and years of sexual empowerment, that double standard of “the slut” vs “the stud” is still engrained in our societal morals.

  2. Christina says:

    In the end of the third quote the NYT’s author says Brenda and Ellen were unaware and “ultimately clueless” about Legba and Haiti’s current state. To me this makes connotations such as “dumb blonde” surface suggesting these women were merely love sick little girls who couldn’t comprehend the gravity of the situation. Perhaps Brenda was indeed distracted and blinded by her infatuation with Legba, however it was clear to me Ellen clearly understood Legba’s safety was at bay. She was quite aware of the danger Legba was in; especially during the kitchen scene where she begged him to stay with her in hiding until everything became more stable as well as offering him the opportunity to go back to Boston with her; willing to do anything to protect her precious lover. We see Ellen as having a deep and meaningful emotional attachment to Legba in comparison to Brenda who was merely using him for the way he made her feel, and was happy to move on with her life in pursuit of her next source of infatuation. In the end of the film Ellen even points out Legba’s death was her fault because of her risky behavior with him resulting in his death to which Brenda seems somewhat unphased and indifferent. Although this is a harsh accusation; it is evident to me that Ellen was much more in tune with the happenings of the island than Brenda was, and to generalize and describe them both as “ultimately clueless” is an inaccurate interpretation of the characters.

    • GwynSims says:

      I think I would have to respectfully disagree. While it’s true that Ellen was more in touch with her surroundings–although quite possibly just because Brenda wasn’t really in touch with anything relating to the real world, Haitian or otherwise–I think Ellen’s crisis at the end is not because she has been connected to Legba throughout the whole movie, but instead because she finally realizes she never was and never could be.

      Ellen knows Legba is in danger, but this would be obvious to anyone because someone had recently tried to shoot him. Other than that she didn’t really understand the implications.In fact her desire to take Legba back to Boston with her shows just how out of touch she is, thinking that this person would want to leave his home and move to a very different place, living with a woman he clearly never loved. Neither Brenda nor Ellen ever really saw Legba as a person, and they both realize this by the end of the film (Ellen starts running through scenarios in her head about Legba and his ex gf as though it had never occured to her he had a life outside the beach and her, Brenda of course realizes she only liked the way Legba looked at her). The difference is not between the level of feeling the two women had for Legba, but instead between how they responded to realizing that NEITHER of them had real feelings for him. Ellen at least had the decency to be disturbed by this realization, but that doesn’t make her much better than Brenda.

      Thus, while the word “clueless” is harsh and you’re right, it does harken back to stereotypes of women being dumb, it is not undeserved, because neither of the two women were exactly familiar with either Haitian politics or Legba’s life as a human being.

    • xxxjo says:

      „As much as Ellen and Brenda think they understand him [Legba] and the state of fear that grips Haiti, they are ultimately clueless“ (NYT). I think what the NYT wants to point out here is that the western women had no idea of the actual political and social situation of the people in Haiti, because they lived in a parallel tourist-world. They were not personally interested in the pain and problems of Legba. Although Ellen became more aware of the fact that Legba was in danger she was not aware of the reasons. I cannot feel the connotations which Christina sees here. I think the movie and the statement did not want to point out that love makes these women too blind to see what is going on backstage of lovely “tourist-world.” I think it is more about the problem that from the point of view of the western women Ellen and Brenda as well as the other tourist-woman the problems of native people are not imaginable and are also not of any interest for them. I think the question is not, if they loved or loved Legba not, but if they were interested in him as a person or as an love-object. I think the carelessness and the ignorance of emancipated western women towards other oppression mechanism is what the film want to talk about and criticize. I think already the fact that they came to Haiti as tourists make them “ultimately clueless.” Yes, it might be that Ellen did not stay blind and became interested into the real person Legba. But also Ellen turns away from Haiti´s problems, because she goes home and therefore again turns a blind eye to the problems and dangers of Haiti in a globalized world. In my eyes Brenda and Ellen, as well as the others, did not become aware, of the interconnections of globalization, the problems of Haiti and their privileges as western women.

  3. nnmahmoudi says:

    My post is in response to the first interpretation of the film by Francoise Lionnet. The interpretation discusses many of the issues present in the film, but I feel that it sets feminism as the main issue of the film where as there were many other issues of importance. In the last sentence of the interpretation, Francoise Lionnet mentions that the film “is a study in solidarities against the many forms of oppression that the North imposes on its women and others.” I felt that by labeling the different issues in the film as “other,” it was indicating that the other issues were not as important as feminism. Personally, I found other issues of importance in the film to be the restavek situation, globalization, and the political issues of the time as seen in Legba’s ex girlfriend who was coerced into being the colonel’s lover. Together, I felt that all of these issues really formed the film, as it was not just about this concept of feminism and women having this new sense of freedom through romance tourism. On the other hand, the film could be labeled as a film inspired by feminism due to the fact that it showed rich, American women of the 1970s who put themselves into situations of power with men and could control these men with their money. Thinking of the film as “inspired by the feminist movement of the 1970s,” I think of the Bechdel test. When we learned about the Bechdel test in class, I thought of it as a test to determine whether or not movies are feminist films. In that case, by the questions presented in the Bechdel test, the film would not be a “feminist” film because the women only talked about men or how these men affected their lives, but it does fit the other criteria.

    • kimcmull says:

      I responded to the first review as well and also thought that there were other important issues that were addressed in the film that were just as central to the film as women’s oppression by the North. I liked how you mentioned the issues with globalization and Legba’s ex-girlfriend. I at first thought that this wasn’t the case because being in a women’s studies class setting I was only looking for the feminist aspect of the film, but when I looked back, I realized that the film addressed so much more about the social and political issues in Haiti and other countries like it. Also, though I don’t believe that the Bechdel test is an exclusive list of qualifications for a film to be “feminist,” I really liked your observation about the women in this film only ever speaking about men. It was very insightful.

  4. ellkayjack says:

    I am going to write a response to the third interpretation of the film, from the New York Times. The writer of this text does not explicitly interpret the interrelations of Legba, Ellen and Brenda through the lens of gender politics. However, the textual descriptions of the social behaviors and assumptions between our main characters get straight to the root of the film’s commentary on romance tourism. For while many aspects of the film reveal Ellen and Brenda’s views on cultural gender expectations, and thus reveal the ways in which American culture has brought them to this particular gender construction, it too avoids directly approaching the ramifications of gendered expectations when traveling from ones native culture to an unfamiliar one. Thus the review’s approach of describing key tensions between characters that are so smoothly embedded within a grander plot effectively strips away all other stimulating details to get right to the meat of the message. What is easy to be distracted from while watching the film is directly honed in on, and thus the implications on gender construction, and specifically its operations in the realm of romance tourism, are offered forth for any reader to more comfortably access. While an audience member who is not well-versed on the terminology and framework of gender politics may have a hard time accessing what it is that marks the tensions between “Heading South”‘s main characters, the review strips away enough detail to make clear these exact moment of tension. Though the review is not written through a lens strictly guided by gender politics, the main aspects of romance tourism that are most striking to consider in macro terms, micro terms, and all in between, are brought forth in a way that while eloquent is also simple. Thus a broader amount of readers are able to get closer to what most marks the film’s tensions and implied message, even if they have never heard the term romance tourism, nor studied other cases of it.

    • bjvanhorn says:

      I appreciate the way you analyzed the review in a way that incorporates what you know from, but also what others who aren’t privileged to your knowledge might think of the movie. While everyone in class will, assumedly, attempt to respond to each of these reviews by picking up on whether or not the reviewers utilized ideas of feminism, gender norms, or romance tourism, it is important to remember that not all reviews are meant to be analyzed in such a manner. While the first review makes itself strikingly apparent that it is authored by a member of academia, the other reviews are written in a manner which is more or less meant for the general public: the guardian review viewed the film with reference to some global events which arguably have relevance to the film and the NYT review was more or less just considering the movie in and of itself.

  5. kjg07 says:

    I picked the third review from NYT 2006. I agree with the review regarding the beautiful writing and acting. I did not agree with writer’s statement that Ellen and Brenda are apart of Legbas troubles “…to the extent that Legba conspicuously stands out in the flashy clothes Brenda buys him”. I feel like it wasn’t just the flashy clothes but also perhaps the pressure they put on Legba by being so possessive. Also as it was stated in the film by the police officer the women didn’t really know Legba and that his own lifestyle might have caused him to be attacked. I also don’t think they were completely clueless about what was happening in Haiti because Ellen repeatedly offered to get Legba a passport to get him out of there. She had also argued with him in the kitchen scene and was concerned about his safety. The review makes it seem like the women were ignorant but I think that they ignored the situation in Haiti because they were on a vacation to get away from their problems back home. Also I feel like the review does not concentrate on story’s main issue of romance tourism and does not analyze the tensions between the main characters of the film.

    • ellkayjack says:

      I think you make a good point about the review. As far as I understand, you are pointing out that Ellen and Brenda are not stupid women, they are keen enough to pick up on their limits. I agree with this, because they use various means of capturing Legba’s attention that a dumb woman would not be able to even come to. I also agree that they had a limited knowledge on the various dangers in Legba’s life. However, I think the review did get close to the distinction between ignorance and idiocy that these women make. While they are intelligent women, they are indeed, as the review asserted, ignorant at times. They are simply unaware of the cultural politics of most of the situations they dive into and surround themselves with. The review seems to be more of a superficial synopsis written to draw in more viewers, and thus did not really get close to this distinction, but I feel that in your critique of it this distinction becomes more clear.

  6. Maria Salazar says:

    In response to the second interpretation of the film by The Guardian, I found myself understanding its stance and presentation. The review placed me in a moral conundrum, opening my eyes, when it came to romance tourism; society turning a blind eye to what is happening to citizens of tourist countries for monetary and sexual profit, and on the other spectrum trying to understand what brought people to turn to romance tourism. For example The Guardian comments on film-maker, Jorgen Leth’s affair with the 18 year-old daughter of his Haitian cleaner as having been presented as “quaint” and a “droit de seigneur;” giving Jorgen Leth an indirect backhand across the face and condemning him for using his position of power over his house cleaner and daughter. In our society of constant media watch, just waiting to present the next scandal, another affair is seen just as that, another affair. One however does not however place themselves in the position of the subordinated party. What drove them to be in that position? To tolerate it? And overall, to continue doing it? This brings me back to Heading South, the film revolving around the romance tourism experience of Sue, Ellen and Brenda with young Haitian men like Legba. In its setting up of character presentation, we get scenes where the women are speaking directly to the audience. The audience gets further insight into the minds, characteristics and feelings of the women on their romance tourism experience. However when it came to the young Haitian men, Legba being the main object of desire, he was never given an “interview scene” like the women. I feel this was done on purpose to further emphasize the idea of the movie that these men were seen as “objects of desire”…and with further emphasis on the word “object,” being no longer seen as human. The women and Haitian society turned a blind eye to what they were doing during their romance tourism, and ignored the humanity of the men they were subjecting to romance tourism. They never questioned what had led Legba to the point of being a “male escort,” what his life was like, his culture, his true persona. This detachment and inconsideration of the Haitian men is a social commentary of the morals of our society today, where the subordinated lose their humanity in the eyes of the ones with the upper hand.

    • Christina says:

      I agree with your argument that Legba as well as the other males were objectified not only by the film but by the women as well in Heading South. The example I most vividly remember demonstrating this was during the bedroom scene where Legba was lying naked on the bed and Ellen was taking pictures of him, however would not let him choose how he wanted to be posed. This emphasized her power over him like he was her property and she was allowed to do as she wished with him. Another example of his objectification was during the dinner scene where Legba was sporting his new gifts he received as a git from Brenda. Ellen was making sassy commentary about how tacky the outfit was seemingly out of jealousy that someone else was toying with her belongings. It reminded me of two little girls fighting over a doll they wanted to decide how to dress themselves; both thinking the owned the doll and annoyed they had to share it.

    • Michelle says:

      I agree with your response and I also think its important to consider all the possible reasons for why people choose to explore romance and sex tourism in order to better study and understand it. I also found myself wondering about the film not having interviews with Legba and the other men like it had with the women and I came to pretty much the same conclusion. I too thought it was done so to highlight the idea that these men are seen as objects and thus their voices not being heard signified their subordinate power. I also agree with you on your point about Legba’s life, culture and true persona not being explored in the film and it being purposely done.

  7. rsicilekira says:

    I am writing in response to the third quote from the NYT. While I agree with some of the quote, I am displeased with the use of the phrase “ultimately clueless”. As another classmate pointed out in a response posted earlier, it gives off a demeaning attitude towards Ellen and Brenda. While Ellen and Brenda may not be aware of everything going on around them in Haiti, I do not feel they are “ultimately clueless”. Ellen immediately offered Legba her protection when he was in trouble, and stated many times that she knew exactly how to help him. Brenda had even been with Legba at the market and had witnessed his attack as well as the market life in general. Although they both did not know the extent of the danger and life in Haiti, both women had some general knowledge of Legba’s lack of safety. I feel both women were able to take with them some knowledge from their experience with Legba’s death, therefore classifying them as clueless is inaccurate. While both women have their respective faults, I disagree with using the demeaning term “ultimately clueless” when describing them.

    • Michelle says:

      I agree with what you said about Ellen and Brenda’s faults, rather than their tendency to be “ultimately clueless.” As you mentioned, “both women had some general knowledge of Legba’s lack of safety,” and I agree with you entirely. They were both exposed to Legba’s danger, whether they knew to what extent or not was based on their attentiveness. Both women witnessed Legba’s safety in danger; Brenda in the market when Legba was suddenly being chased, and Ellen in the kitchen insisting on giving Legba a passport. Both women cared for Legba and knew he was in danger, but simply did not know how to help him. It is distasteful for the New York Times author to claim both women were “ultimately clueless,” because they were both well aware that Legba was in danger.

  8. gayathriwms says:

    My response is to the third review by New York Times. In their interpretation of the movie, New York Times talks about the interactions and tension between Brenda, Ellen, and Legba. I have two different views regarding the relationships between Ellen and Legba and Brenda and Legba. Brenda came back to Haiti looking for Legba. In Legba she sees a young man whose touch brings out her sexual feelings. Throughout the film she longs for him and his company. Once she and Legba get close again, she buys him clothes and invites him to eat dinner together. However, it was hard for me to see if she ever truly loved him. Ellen on the other hand has true feelings for Legba. She adores him and is concerned for his safety. During the kitchen scene, Ellen opens up to Legba. Even though she is an aristocratic woman, Ellen willingly stoops low from her economic standing to understand and assist Legba’s situation since she wants the best for him. Ellen’s feelings for Legba is beyond sexual and she is ready to do anything for him, for them to be together. NYT states that the ladies “compete for Legba’s love”. This might be the case, but Legba does not love either women. It seems like he enjoys their company and likes both Brenda and Ellen. But he has a life outside that resort and that matters more to him. Finally the review indicates that Brenda and Ellen are “ultimately clueless”. This is a wrong view on the characters. They both definitely know why they have come to Haiti and what they want out of their relationship with Legba. Although Brenda is confused during many instances in the movie, by the end, she is clear with her intentions.

    • jane go says:

      I like the way you analyzed Ellen’s relationship with Legba, as well as Brenda’s confusion in the film. Quite frankly, I don’t think that Brenda had a clue throughout most of the movie. I also don’t believe that she truly loved him; she was in love with the fact that he made her feel good about herself. She loved him the way some people like looking into a mirror with a flattering reflection. I didn’t like Brenda’s character as much as I liked Ellen. Ellen was more assertive in getting what she wanted, and the only time she looked mildly pathetic was after Legba rejected her in the kitchen. You’re right, Legba didn’t love either woman. Another scene to think about here is when Legba goes to see his mother. If you think about that scene after analyzing the kitchen scene with Ellen and Legba, then you’ll notice how Legba’s relationship with his mother is much less stressful than his relationships with the tourist women.

  9. Audrey says:

    In response to the third review, I find it interesting (and nice) that the journalist points out the fact that Brenda starts to dress Legba up like a Ken doll after they officially resume their courtship. The journalist describes Legba’s sudden change in clothing as conspicuous and “flashy”, and I couldn’t agree more. I personally interpreted the sudden change in wardrobe as a sign that Brenda was trying to convert him, to Americanize him, and to make him more civilized. Because up until that point, Legba’s wardrobe consisted of skimpy swimsuits that left nothing to the imagination, presenting him as (almost) a savage-like, uncultured, wild boy.

    The wardrobe change did irk me a bit, especially in the scene where Legba and Brenda are out strolling the streets and shopping around. It only reinforced the level of dominance these female tourists had over the Haitian men. But perhaps most importantly, it shines a light on Brenda’s ignorance and, in some ways, hegemonic view of the Haitian culture. And in fact, what’s nice (and what I assume is of importance) is that the clothing change is even mentioned in the movie when Ellen looks at the clothing with disdain, describing Legba as a Harlem boy look alike. The screenwriter/director does a fantastic job in displaying the theme of hegemony into “Heading South”, infusing it into even the simplest of things, such as clothing.

    As such, I’m very glad this New York Times reviewer brings Legba’s “flashy clothes” to the forefront and found it important enough to include in his/her review.

    • Steph. says:

      I agree, Legba’s new clothes were bright and flashy. 99% of the locals were dressed shabby and he only wore a gold necklace. I did enjoy reading the positive review from the third journalist. Legba seemed to not want to stand out or cause trouble outside of the resort from the little kid being picked up incident, but surprisingly he was okay with wearing flashy clothes.

    • Damien says:

      Audrey, I agree with your interpretation of the third review. I found your comment about Legba clothing very interesting.
      Brenda, who is avoiding classical relationship, is trying to dress Legba as an occidental man which seems kind of contradictory. Also, to a certain extent, we could even say that the female dominance can be assimilated to a sort of neocolonialism. Indeed, Brenda is using her power, in this case her money, over Legba to influence him and change his wardrobe.

  10. jane go says:

    Responding to the third review, I agree with the thought that both Ellen and Brenda believe themselves to be much more important in Legba’s life than they actually are. Both women seem to be hypnotized by Legba’s youth and charm, as well as by the beautiful Haitian resort. The setting and the characters of the film create a plot that would probably be similar to that of one of the romance novels available in the grocery store (maybe these women even have a stash of these novels at home). While watching the film, I noticed that both Ellen and Brenda try to be not only lovers to Legba, but they also want to give him protection and freedom. The scene where Ellen brings Legba into the kitchen to talk about taking him away supports my claim that perhaps tourist women cannot not be anything but sources of finance and sex for Legba. Ellen wants to bring him back to her home, where he would be able to do whatever he wants and be safe. Legba seems to be disgusted in her after she begs for him to stay with her. Another scene in the film shows Legba at his mother’s home. I think that this was significant in that the only woman who has the ability to offer Legba protection and “motherly love” is obviously his mother, who at the same time doesn’t ask him for anything in return. I think that Legba was offended when Ellen tried to give him protection, because she was stepping out of her role as a lover. When Legba went to see his mother, the film suggests that money and sex are not the most important aspects of his life, that there are things about Legba that the women at the resort cannot see or understand because they are only concerned about their lust and the thought of having a storybook romance of their own. Ellen and Brenda believe that they are important and life-changing to Legba. They want to sweep him away from all his troubles in Haiti and give him the ultimate happy ending. In reality, the only amount of protection that they can offer, that Legba would accept, is equal to a flashy outfit.

    • cameronssss says:

      I find your reply very insightful in realizing the importance of the scene with Legba’s mother, and the division it shows between the role of his mother and the role of the tourist women. However, I disagree with your assessment that Legba looks towards the tourist women for money and sex, I believe he only considers them a source of money. Yes, he does perform intercourse with them, but only for the money. At another part in the movie, when it shows Legba playing soccer with other Haitians, Legba spoke briefly to an admiring girl, and his friends called him ‘good with the ladies.’ I believe that Legba would have had an engaging love life without the tourist women, and therefore only interacted with the tourist women for money.

      However, this is just a small nit-pick of your reply; the rest of it is logical and persuasive.

  11. hahnchiu says:

    Legba was all smiles while entertaining the mature white women, but around his mother and ex-girlfriend he couldn’t hide the seriousness of his circumstances. Throughout most of “Heading South” it is ambiguous whether Legba has genuine interest in any of the northern women. But his leaving the roll of cash for his mother before his imminent demise suggests he was likely just working to help her survive. If his mother was alone, Legba probably put her financial security over his physical safety. At home and in the car with his ex-girlfriend we could see the despair he really felt under his usual cheery mask.
    Some women from the north head south for lust (e.g. Brenda), others to find love (e.g. Ellen). Women like Brenda get their sexual pleasure, but unfortunately for women searching for love, the reality of “oppression” of women exists in the south as much as it does in the north. Legba seemed emotionally detached from all of northern women throughout the film, but it is clear that their money was important to him. Heading South implies it is not unique to or more prevalent in the north that most men’s romantic attraction towards women is primarily based on their physical attributes. So, I disagree with the critic Françoise Lionnet’s suggestion that the film conveys that the north is especially oppressive towards women and others.
    I think Brenda and Ellen both (consciously or not) exploited Legba more than he benefited from their wealth. While northern women looking for love in the south might have their hearts broken at worst, it is never tourists who get killed.

    • camgd says:

      I think you make a very good point about Legba’s expression of his feelings and his differing feelings towards the women he is close to vs. the tourist women. However, I kind of disagree with your assertion that Ellen is looking for love: it seems more to me that she is looking for power. Also, in this very act of women needing to leave their country to find men to satisfy them, isn’t it a possibility that they are also escaping oppression, and that this is why they exploit Legba, as you point out? As sort of a revenge?

  12. kimcmull says:

    In the first film review, I liked how it didn’t just mention the oppression of women, but also the oppression of “others” by the North. This mention of “others” seemed only as an afterthought of the author, tacked on the end of the review, but this small insight pointed out a lesser motive in the film’s representation of Haiti and the subtle ways the “oppression” was shown alongside that of women. What the author is referring to by “others” is the Haitian people and all other countries like it, that have had the North interfere, through either the economy or military. This oppression was subtly shown in the film mostly through Albert’s character. He talks about how Americans especially, have invaded his country and that it is now “rotten.” He speaks about what his father would think of him if he saw him waiting on white people, because to him, they are worse than animals. This shows all the built up anger by the Haitians towards America’s history of domination in their country. This small acknowledgement of the director’s additional motive made me give this review more credit, but I also thought a negative aspect was that it didn’t mention the individual characters of Ellen and Brenda to show that each person and situation is different when it comes to romance tourism. When interviewing people about the topic of romance tourism, the consensus about it being either good or bad, was that it would purely depend on the situation and the individual. While this was definitely not a good situation, because of Legba’s death, it effected the two women very differently. Ellen was very hurt, because I believe that she truly did love him, while Brenda only liked the way he made her feel about herself and so went off to find another person to satisfy her needs. This important aspect of romance tourism in the film, was left out in the review along with any mention of the individual characters at all. This very short review had a good insight into the overall theme, but I thought the mention of the specific characters, would have shown the film’s overall depth better.

  13. Michelle says:

    The third review from the NYT discusses the complications that can arise from romance tourism and for tourist women when confronted with the realities of a different culture. I don’t know that it was so much ignorance of Haiti as a whole as an idealized perception of Legba. These women perceive Legba through the lenses of desire. They seem to be oblivious of his life outside their resort for a lot of the film because they’re there for vacation. I think that Brenda and Ellen and their fantasized attachment/lust for Legba seem to obscure (for the most part) everything else that he was as a human, his life outside what they knew, and whatever danger they sensed he was in. And I agreed with the discussions in class about thle difference between Ellen and Brenda. Ellen, despite seemingly at first only seeing him as a “boy-toy” function, actually had a deeper attachment to Legba (evidenced by her jealousy of Brenda and the scene where she offers him a passport and life with her in the States. Brenda, was entranced by the way Legba looked at her and by his masculinity (evidenced by her comment about having her first orgasm with him) and thought it was a deep emotional attachment. Objectively, Legba is a “get-away” from their regular lives and routines and disappointment. But I also think that the review doesn’t seem to differentiate them as two different cases, and as two different women. In my opinion, Brenda really just lusted after Legba. He was an exotic/erotic man to her first and foremost. She forms a faux emotional attachment to him. And I saw this with the scene after she goes looking for him and instead ends up dancing with another local man. She seems very engrossed by this man as she rests her head on his shoulder that she seems to have forgotten about Legba. And of course the final scene where I believe she says something along the lines of “maybe I didn’t love Legba” and decides to visit more places and have more fun, dismissing the death that just occurred to someone she claimed to so dearly. Ellen on the other hand seemed to have taken it harder and went home. She always said that Legba needed to be given his freedom. Despite that she was jealous of his and Brenda’s relationship. I think that despite her offer to get Legba out of Haiti was well intentioned, there was a flaw in her presumption that with Legba leaving with her, everything would be okay. She failed to consider his life, his family, and the future that could await them. And in that moment of desperation in the kitchen, it’s almost as though she wants to protect him for his sake but also for her’s. Because he’s surpassed the sexual lover and become “her’s” In the end, neither woman stays in Haiti to combat crime, to find another man or anything. But the difference is that Ellen is visibly marked differently by Legba’s death than Brenda is.

    • Kayla Wigley says:

      I completely agree with your post. Your focus on Brenda is very clear and you established that she indeed was blinded by lust to think that he leaving Haiti with her would end their problems. Also, with your explanation of Ellen you proved that Legba to her became property rather than a lover. I agree that these women are two different, negative examples of romance tourism.

  14. ajgutz84 says:

    The New York Times gives us a short synopsis of the film. The review attempts to describe Ellen and Brenda’s relationship with Legba, but unfortunately it falls short in assuming that the women were insignificant and unrelated to Legba’s demise. The review gives me the impression that Legba is the main character in a love triangle, and that the women are caught up in the turmoil of Haiti’s political affairs. As a reader who has already seen the film, I think this review is incomplete and it bypasses the main point of the film; which is to juxtapose the fantasy and sexual desires of middle aged, wealthy, American women versus the gritty reality that Haitian locals are forced to confront because of the political and economic upheaval in Haiti in the 1970’s. Although for most of the part the review seems to be very superficial and broad, it does get one part right; Ellen and Brenda are “ultimately clueless” when it comes to really understanding Legba and the political state of Haiti. Although some may argue that Ellen and Brenda are not clueless and that they have knowledge as to how dangerous Haiti can be, they are blind to the fact that no matter how much money they have, it will never be enough to keep Legba and his loved ones out of trouble with corrupt government. Ellen and Brenda know what they want from Legba, but they don’t understand that he has no other choice but to live the life he lives because of the circumstances his country is in. The film does a very good job in portraying how clueless Ellen and Brenda are in terms of their knowledge of what is happening outside of the resort.

    • Audrey says:

      I enjoyed reading your post very much. However, I (respectfully) disagree with some parts of it. I don’t believe “clueless” is the right word to describe Ellen/Brenda’s knowledge of Legba’s background. I think ignorance (that ultimately stemmed from a sense of Eurocentric superiority) is a much more accurate way to describe Brenda and Ellen’s stance on Legba’s life. It’s not that they weren’t presented evidence of the lives of the Haitian people (in fact, Brenda even walked down the streets taking pictures of the Haitian people) it’s that they chose to ignore (due to a lack of interest) the Haitian culture, taking interest in only the things that were on the surface (and that applied to them), and disregarding the rest.

      • Anna says:

        Dear Audrey,
        Thank you very much for replying to my post and being so respectful in providing your opinion. I have to agree with you to a certain degree. I felt that in some scenes Ellen and Brenda definitely showed ignorance in choosing to acknowledge certain aspects of Haitian culture and denying other parts. I also really appreciate the comment on Brenda’s “souvenir” shopping experience because it shows the big contrast of the social spheres that Legba is able to transcend by being a “tour guide.” The point that I was trying to make in my previous post is that Ellen and Brenda are “clueless” in regards to the cause of Legba’s death, which the film was very straightforward about; we see the constant presence of oppressive authority figures through the representations of many characters. Legba’s murder is symbolic because it is a social commentary on the socio-cultural and political changes that were taking place in the 1970s. Legba is a threat to all forms of authority figures because he is young, has local influence, and social connections. Legba represents a generation of males that break from Haitian tradition because of the combined effects of the decline in socio-economic and political structure and the corruption of the “crisp” American dollar. Albert, is the opposite of Legba, in that he idealizes about the former ways of his forefathers and he mentions the moral decline in the youth of Haiti. Additionally, we know that Albert does not approve of Legba’s way of life and he also refuses to acknowledge the external influence of an authoritary figure in the case of Legba’s murder. He quickly dismisses Legba’s death as just another troublesome kid who got shot, Brenda and Ellen have no choice but to believe this. They have no idea as to what could have caused Legba’s death. Their safest bet is Albert’s account of things because they don’t know that the same authorities that seem to keep the resort safe from any political disturbances are the same authorities that are looking to dispose of any political threats or interference. Brenda and Ellen are women that are aware of their surroundings within the tourist realm, but outside they are at the mercy of information that is divulged in bits and pieces from unfounded sources. Because of this inequality in information access, Ellen and Brenda seem to believe Legba is there just for fun and that they can control his coming and going from their “constructed world” to his “reality.” As viewers we witnessed Legba’s motives in choosing to earn his living by being a “boy toy,” he needs to provide for his mother. Although, Legba’s mother was also uninformed about Legba’s whereabouts, she was not clueless because she acknowledged the danger Legba risked with corrupt authorities and powerful entities who could harm him. I felt that the NYT review was the only one that grasped this concept of this “imbalance of information”, therefore Ellen and Brenda’s uninformed reasonings as to possible causes of death were in a way lacking a clue. Unfortunately, because Albert chooses to not interact with the youth around him, he is unable to provide insight because he is detached from their reality.

  15. Damien says:

    In the third interpretation of the film from the NYT, the reader can have a general description of the whole movie within a few lines. The writer tried to expose the main events and the complex relationships between Ellen, Brenda and Legba. He also exposed briefly the social and economic situation in Haiti in 1970 in the very end of the text which is something I did not found in the two others reviews and so interesting.

    However, it seems to me that by focusing to much on the “competition” for Legba, the text did not approach the fact that Ellen and Brenda have really two very different relations with him. The writer should have talked about the complicated reasons which pushed Ellen and Brenda to avoid more classical or traditional relationships for something different instead of describing the “gunman” scene which is, I think, not primordial. Moreover, the expression “ultimately clueless”, which is very powerful, concludes the text by letting the reader think that Ellen and Brenda did not finally succeed or even failed in understanding Legba and “the state of fear that grips Haiti”. Nevertheless, I think there is actually a more complicated evolution of the two characters. For instance, Brenda last sentence on the boat is “I want another one” whenever she was acting like if she was in love with him at the beginning of the film.

    So, this interpretation of the film, by trying to be clear, direct and in a journalistic point of view, might have missed some important subjects of the film.

    • pamnonga says:

      I agree that the review did not capture the nuances of the separate relationships, and instead placed them under the same category under which competition between the two women would have been possible. And as you said, the context behind the ladies’ actions is extremely important for analyzing the story and the broader message of the film. You say that thet expression “ultimately clueless” was a very powerful phrase to use…In a beneficial or detrimental manner? In my response to this quote I expressed my feeling that reducing the women’s misunderstanding of the situation to cluelessness was a bit harsh and did not give them enough credit or place their actions in the proper context. The review was headed in the right direction but did not live up to its potential by neglecting key elements that emphasize the themes that it presents.

  16. Michelle says:

    I am writing in the response to the third quote, from the New York Times. I agree with the majority of the quote. The short synopsis of the film is quite accurate and I concur with the fact that “‘Heading South’ is beautifully written… with award-worthy performances,” but I am resistant in agreeing with the entire quote. At the end of the quote it claims that Ellen and Brenda are “ultimately clueless.” I cannot contest to that, for they both knew and were aware of the economic struggles and the difficulties of living in Haiti. Brenda had taken Legba to town in pristine, crisp clothing where she took pictures of the locals and seemed to disregard the fact that everyone in the market area was poor and was desperate for money. One cannot claim that she was clueless to her surroundings if she was taking pictures of the world in front of her. She was well aware of what condition Haiti was in, but tended to disregard it; perhaps being blindsided by love or because she was on vacation so she didn’t need to worry about anything? Even love cannot make someone that ignorant, especially if she was sharing her lover with another woman. Ellen on the other hand acted less clueless, as she repeatedly addressed the fact that Legba should go into hiding or accept a passport to get out of the country. She was aware that Legba was not in the best social environment and attempted to help him despite his refusals. Brenda and Ellen were not “ultimately clueless,” though they did have their faults and were inconsiderate to Legba’s safety and wellbeing in the end.

    • bnvue says:

      I understand that the word “ultimately” was probably a bad word choice on NYT’s part. However, I do agree that the women were clueless about Legba’s life and what he really needed. As much as Ellen and Brenda tried to make Legba’s life easier by giving him gifts, money, and a chance to escape Haiti, they still fail to understand the true Legba outside of the vacation resort. Instead of trying to understand his struggles and finding a better solution for him to work towards a successful (educational & career wise) life, these women offer him all these luxurious things in return for his company. Instead of talking to Legba about his troubles and coming up with an agreed resolution for his safety, these women tries to find the easy way out for him and from him. Ellen, who thinks she’s saving him by offering to take him with her back home, doesn’t consider that Legba’s problems can spread to his family members too if he leaves. But then again, Ellen and the rest of the female probably doesn’t know that Legba even has a family. Brenda, who gives up after failing to find Legba and decides to accompany herself with another local man, doesn’t seem to care or worry much about Legba, even though she witnessed the whole shooting incident and knows how much danger he is in. So with all this taken into perspective, it is understandable why NYT considers these women to be “clueless.”

    • gayathriwms says:

      I agree with you in that ‘Heading South’ was formulated with wonderful performances that brought out the essence in the characters. It is true that Ellen and Brenda both seem to understand Legba’s life outside their resort. However, I understand that Brenda was more ‘clueless’ than Ellen. The reason she took Legba out was because she probably wanted to feel his presence and being with him, having his company, made her feel good. When the person came after Legba with the gun, she was struggling to understand. I do not think she completely understood the problems, but do agree with you that she tried to blind herself from them. You mention that Legba is Brenda’s lover and that she is sharing him with another woman. I don’t think Brenda ever loved Legba. She merely used him for her sexual pleasures and had that possessiveness over him. Ellen on the other hand is a very strong character. She truly loved Legba and this was shown during their kitchen scene. She could have been ‘clueless’ about the issues around Haiti, but she was well aware that Legba was in trouble and wanted to help him.

  17. bnvue says:

    The Guardian’s review that comments on Jorgen Leth’s “affair” with his Haitian cleaner’s 18 year old daughter is not made to present a coincidence between a real life situation and the film, but rather it demonstrates that these incidences in the film are evident in reality. By using Jorgen Leth as a real life example, The Guardian is probably trying reveal that these romance/sex tourism are ongoing in these societies and it does not only involve women romance/sex tourism but also men romance/sex tourism. These older White men and women are engaging in these romance/sex tourism that may be wrong in their home society, but accepted and popular in these tourist locations.

    In addition to the exposing the existence of women and men romance/sex tourism in the present societies, The Guardian also states, “sex tourism is – of course it is- about men exploiting women.” Although the quote is quite offensive for men and brings out the pro-feminist side of the Guardian, the Guardian’s opinion about “Heading South” and its failure to “tackle head-on this tougher reality” presents feminism as a hatred of men. Basically, it implies that feminism views men as cruel; thus, showing the Guardian as others who misunderstands feminism with these horrible stereotypes.

    -Brenda Vue

    • bnvue says:

      Sorry, I posted the wrong one up. The correct one is below.

    • katherynevu says:

      Hello Brenda,
      I really thought your interpretation of the Guardian was very insightful. In many ways I agree with you completely. I agree that The Guardian is attempting to reveal that sex-romance tourism is ongoing in their respected societies even though it would be unacceptable in their home society. I did happen to ignore the feminist undertone of the article and your review really gave me a better insight.

  18. Kayla Wigley says:

    In regard to the third review by The New York Times, I agree completely with the writer. I especially agree with the mentioning of Brenda and Ellen believing that they are the “immediate” cause of Legba’s trouble with the gunman. By immediate, I assume the writer was interpreting that Brenda and Ellen thought they were Legba’s biggest life aspect. I observed Legba to be a troubled native struggling to deal with his desire for both wealth and culture. Being a native of Haiti, Legba was born into a poor community. As a worker at the resort, he was exposed to wealth and found it accessibly through physical connections to foreign women. Unfortunately, this was a battle that he could not win for his native “friends” seemed to disown him for his alliances to these temporary women. While the writer was right to assume that Brenda and Ellen saw themselves as his “immediate” cause for his near death involvement, he/she neglected to hint the view point of the native in the situation of romance tourism. Legba’s biggest aspect in life was neither Brenda or Ellen, but the benefits he received from them. These women provided him with extensive luxuries while denying him of his manhood. Some may believe that Legba was only focused on obtaining wealth, but with the evidence of his last visit to his mother it is made clear that he had a true desire for his culture and home. Overall, the main aspects of romance tourism are provided to anyone who may or may not have seen the film. In a sense, both Brenda and Ellen (foreigners) had hegemony over Legba (native). The screenwriter did a great job in providing theme of hegemony into “Heading South” and how Legba failed to overcome it.

    • hahnchiu says:

      I agree that perhaps Brenda and Ellen are “ultimately clueless,” and that is not such an insulting observation. They are vacationers, after all. Interestingly, Brenda seemed more indifferent to Legba’s safety despite her brush with the corrupt law enforcement. Ellen on the other hand, did not have first hand experience with the danger Legba faced but showed genuine concern for him, even offering to help him start a new life in the United States. Legba’s unresponsiveness to her generosity shows both his detachment towards the northern women and his attachment to his home country and family/friends. Whether visitors are apathetic to the politics of Haiti like Brenda, or want to understand it, they are ultimately privileged foreigners who cannot begin to comprehend Legba’s situation.

      I did not get the impression that Brenda and Ellen felt they understood Legba; at one point Ellen even (partially) jokes she’d rather be left to her illusions than have Legba divulge what he likes in a woman. She wants Legba’s love, but understands he is not physically attracted to her.

  19. bnvue says:

    Quote #2
    The Guardian’s review that comments on Jorgen Leth’s “affair” with his Haitian cleaner’s 18 year old daughter is not made to show a coincidence between a real life situation and the film, but rather it demonstrates that these incidences in the film are evident in reality. By using Jorgen Leth as a real life example, The Guardian is probably trying to reveal that these romance/sex tourisms are ongoing in these societies and does not only involve women romance/sex tourism but also men romance/sex tourism. These older White men and women are engaging in these romance/sex tourisms that may be wrong in their home society, but accepted and popular in these tourist locations. So, as repulsive as it is for older men or women to engage in sexual relationships with younger women and men (in our society), other countries are more accepting of these relationships. Moral or immoral, different societies have their own cultural values and traditions that determines what is right and wrong.

    In addition to exposing the existence of women and men romance/sex tourism in the present societies, The Guardian also states, “sex tourism is – of course it is- about men exploiting women.” Although the quote is quite offensive for men and brings out the pro-feminist side of the Guardian, the Guardian’s opinion about “Heading South” and its failure to “tackle head-on this tougher reality” presents feminism as a hatred of men. Basically, it implies that feminism views men as cruel; thus, categorizing the Guardian with others who misunderstand feminism with these incorrect stereotypes.

    -Brenda Vue

  20. pamnonga says:

    My post is in response to the third interpretation of the film. I thought it was interesting that the review starts by listing the languages used in the screenplay what one might percieve as order of social stature and power in Haiti. French being the language of the dominant oppressor followed by English, the language of those who further accentuate the disparity, and finally Creole, the language of the subordinates. I disagree with the claim that Brenda and Ellen were competing for Legba’s love. I would argue that the contest was more of a power struggle between the two women than a search for true love from a man. I agree that the women hyperbolize their significance in the young man’s life. Just as they could find another “exotic” man to replace him, he would have no trouble finding another woman (or women) to provide for him financially. They are means to an end, a simple opportunity. The characterization of the women as “clueless” is a bit harsh, implying that their ignorance comes from their lack of intelligence rather than their desire to maintain in the bubble of “paradise” that they seek when visiting Haiti.

    • rsicilekira says:

      I agree with your idea that Brenda and Ellen had more of a power struggle within the two of them rather than competing for “Legba’s love”. The idea of the two women competing for his love puts Legba on a pedestal, as if women are fighting over his every move. The jealously between the two woman was directed more at each other rather than at Legba. Each woman did not like the idea that another woman was being chosen over them, specifically their own friend.

      I also agree that they wished to stay in their bubble. They were not completely clueless to what was going on around them, they just wished to stay detached from the “real world” while spending their time there. The whole idea of them going to Haiti was to escape the real world, so there was no reason for them to become involved in everything going on in Haiti.

  21. camgd says:

    I had problems accepting many points made in Peter Bradshaw’s review of Heading South, featured in The Guardian. For example, the idea that, “like pornography, sex tourism will shrug aside moral objection through the sheer weight of its profitability” was a new issue when he wrote this review in 2004 is preposterous: as is the idea that it has not already happened. As we see in the preparatory paper, “For Love and Money” (Pruitt and LaFont), even in 1995, countries of the Caribbean that relied on tourism were already capitalizing on relations between their young men and foreign women through advertising campaigns abroad. Also, the assertion that sex tourism is primarily about women being exploited by men is long since outdated, and yet no author seems willing to acknowledge that, while women in other countries are being exploited for sex tourism, and this has been a factor in their oppression for centuries, the so-called reversal seen in romance tourism by women of the global North is catching up at an alarming rate. To ignore it, or say that this shift in hegemony is less of an issue than male sex tourism is to imply that the women engaging in romance tourism are not having a negative effect on their own cultures and those that they engage with when travelling. It is, if you will, another form of sexism: “men abroad abusing women? Oh, my goodness that is a degradation of foreign peoples and must be stopped! The reverse? Aw, nothing to worry about, women don’t have an effect on local economies or cultural gender relations when they seduce young foreign boys!” Bradshaw’s assertion in the full review that Rampling’s character (Ellen) is “daring, transgressive,” and, “exotic,” because she is a woman is to say that women are still merely subjects of the male gaze, not capable of wielding masculinity, even though this very act is central to Ellen’s character. Finally, I heartily disagree with Bradshaw’s assertion that the violence in the film was softcore. Certainly, to the average Haitian, or even the average American of 2004, two key characters in a film showing up dead on a beach must seem tame compared to other films on the market at the time (e.g. Dawn of the Dead), I find it to be a perfectly accurate portrayal of violence in a country ruled by a dictator such as Baby Doc: people disappeared, they were not taken to the guillotine or blown up by land mines. The violence would have been carefully hidden, especially from tourists, whose viewpoint we are supposed to take: in Heading South, the camera is as restricted by the resort as the tourists are, and the mystery of Haiti is portrayed masterfully: while Bradshaw might prefer we were bludgeoned over the head with an overt message that romance tourism is bad from scene 1, I find Cantet’s delicacy in introducing this message as the film progresses is masterful: it is not the violence we see, but the violence we do not see, that keeps us thinking long after we leave the film.

  22. bjvanhorn says:

    Responding to the NYT review of Heading South, I feel as though the reviewer downplays the role of Brenda and Ellen, along with other “Romance Tourists” in Haiti, possibly to downplay certain feminist tones that echo throughout the film. Most distinctly, the reviewer seems to ignore the power tourists have in Haiti at the time. While it may be true that said tourists aren’t going to change Haiti, nor any of its inhabitants, they can surely affect them in positive, and less so, negative ways. The women have a role, possibly the largest, in Legba’s life, especially with concerns to food, shelter, money, and other day-to-day necessities brought on by the human condition. In fact, Legba’s downfall, asserted by the reviewer to have possibly been brought on by the women to any degree, was solely brought on by the power the “limousine girl” who knew Legba and told him too much, despite his unwillingness to be brought in on such matters. This is shown by the fact that the same man who was driving said individual who wished to have Legba act as her confidante, is the man who later attempts to shoot and kill Legba. The women also have a large role in the way Haiti works, as whatever tourists touch are more or less safe from the horrific regime of Papa Doc, as shown by the end when the investigator tells Albert that “Tourists never die”. As such, it would be logical to assume that, if anything, the fact that Legba was involved with these women would have been more protecting than harmful to him, despite Brenda’s flashy gifts leading him to be more “conspicuous”. Legba’s murder likely has more to do with relationship with said “limousine girl”. So, while the associations with the “Romantic Tourists” may affect Legba’s social life and standing with older citizens of Haiti, he would likely only benefit from said associations when it comes to his protection from the ruling regime. If Brenda and Ellen were “ultimately clueless” to understanding Legba, and less so, the regime that gripped Haiti at the time, they would have had much less control over him throughout the film.

    • Iris says:

      I agree with your interpretation, because while reading the “Romance Tourism” article, I noted that there was several cases where the lovers were taken to the country of the tourist’s origin – if the romance tourist had that much power to remove them from the country itself, while also providing a visa, who is there to say that the tourists do not have power in other ways as well? There is a reason why the system has proliferated so readily, and it is due to the ready willingness to spend and to travel to visit these ‘exotic locations.’ There would also be major retribution paid if the tourists were the one to be touched, and the seeming insignificance of Legba’s death was noted by the character who said, “Legba was not a saint/angel, boys like him often turn up like that” – alluding to the poor background in which many of the companions are from.

  23. sueeeeeet says:

    I will be responding to the third interpretation of the film from the New York Times. I feel like the writer gives the women less credit than they deserve. The writer states, “…both imagine,” “the women imagine…,” “Ellen and Brenda think they understand…,” and “…they are ultimately clueless.” The entire review on the movie portrays these women as airheaded and ignorant beings. I do agree with the writer that both Ellen and Brenda didn’t know about Legba’s life outside of the resort. However, they were still well aware of the fact that he was in danger and that it wasn’t safe for him to be going back to his hometown. When

    The writer also asserts that these women imagine their large roles in Legba’s life and the cause of his death. To me, it was very apparent that these women were significant characters in his life. Although Legba might not have been in love with the two, these women provided him with money, intimacy, and companionship. Without the money, Legba would not be able to help provide for his mother. I also believe that they were, in a way, the cause of his troubles because their constant possessiveness over Legba pushes him to go back to his ex-girlfriend and eventually killed. While one might think Ellen and Brenda are clueless characters due to their lack of knowledge of Legba’s personal life, I think they actually knew what they wanted and what they were doing while on the island.

  24. My response in regards to the third review by The New York Times (July 8, 2006). I agree that the screenplay, “Heading South,” from the writers, producers and the actors it was a well directed film.. The film transitioned smoothly, keeping the audience interested in what was to happen next. The main characters, Brenda and Ellen, begin as two completely opposite characters. Brenda seems to be a more calm, passive woman who came to Haiti seeking a good time. It seems as though at first she is “clueless” about how things work at the resort and therefore, she attempts to fit in with the rest of the women on “vacation” by socializing and asking questions. On the other hand, Ellen is a strong, dominating character who is obviously in charge and has been at the resort before or for some time. She acts as though she doesn’t care about who Legba sleeps with but at the end of the film, the contrary is reveled. Demonstrating, the true affection Ellen had for her love Legba. A completely agree that both women believe they mean more to Legba than they actually do and therefore fall head over heels for him. Throughout the film we see two scenes in regards to Legba’s life outside the resort. The first was when a girl, who was apparently a family friend, asked him to take a ride with her and asked him to promise her he would always be her friend. The second scene was towards the end when he went to his mother’s house to give her a substantial amount of money. I think that there was more to Legba and that girl than just being friends. He went to his mother to give her all he had because he recognized he was in trouble when that girl’s driver shot at him for a reason beyond what we see in the film. Nevertheless, Brenda and Ellen seem to think they are the reason Legba is in trouble and disregard that it could be because of something he did. Although I disagree with the review and I don’t think they were completely “clueless” about what was going on with Legba. Since they were in love with him they both attempted to help him regardless of the circumstances. Their love for Legba went beyond the sex tourism they practiced with him, and I believe by offering him help they both hoped he would chose to go far away from his troubles to live with them in the bubble of “happiness” he contributed in building.

  25. cameronssss says:

    I am responding to the first review.

    Françoise Lionnet states “…it is a study in solidarities against the many forms of oppression that the North imposes on its women and others.”

    I disagree with this; the movie focuses much more on the conditions in Haiti and the complicated relationships between the Northern women and the Haitian men than it does on the oppression of these Northern women in their respective home countries. It does address some of the women’s frustrations with their home societies, but does not present these frustrations in such a way that the women appear to be ‘oppressed.’ Overall, Francoise appears to miss the main point of the film.

    • ananunez3 says:

      I agree with you that it does not focus much on the oppression of women in their home countries but maybe Francoise was focusing on the small details that the film had on women “oppression”. For example in their “interview” where they talked about their lives at home where their husbands don’t really treat them so well or even pay attention to them but more specifically Sue’s interview part where she says she actually comes from a working class. These women travel to Haiti to feel more freedom and more respected as women although there is not much about in on the film. On a larger scale I agree these things seem more like frustrations than oppression and that the film focuses more on the Haiti’s conditions but also on the way tourist women get obsessed with these Haitian men rather than a “complicated relationship” since the men in Haiti don’t grow much feelings toward these women.

  26. enykim says:

    In the third interpretation of three, I felt that the very last line of the interpretation saying “they are ultimately clueless” should be specified. I think it is possible to understand why they are ultimately clueless only after we investigate both relationships of those 3 people and a context of Haiti. In a word, Ellen and Brenda don’t seem to be clueless superficially but they are totally clueless in the light of social structure in Haiti.
    Firstly, Ellen and Brenda are definitely aware that Legba is in danger of being attacked and Ellen and Brenda are eager to help rescue Legba from emotionally and physically unstable situation each in a different way. In case of Ellen, she tries to help Legba in a practical way by assuring financial support. And she really seems to be able to make Legba escape from his situation, considering her social and economical status. Compared to Ellen, Brenda tries to help Legba in an affectional way by keeping intimacy and showing her desire to stay with Legba since it seems pretty obvious that Legba and Brenda love each other more than him and Ellen by seeing their frequent date and physical affection. Both of these 2 ways might have been Legba’s alternatives to escape from his situation but he couldn’t choose any of these. Legba’s situation is Haiti itself so that Ellen and Brenda couldn’t have gotten impact such on changing his life.
    In Haitian society at least in the movie, men like Legba are negative being. A restaurant owner’s line saying that a whole community becomes rotten because of American dollars reveals a reality of Haiti. It seems that they don’t want to acknowledge that sexual tourism is not right source of their income. Haiti men who are engaged in activities with foreign women are not described as positive being but somewhat opportunists, considering female Haitians looking toward those men at restaurant. If Legba’s death is attributed to hate crime by the man who thinks it’s shameful for men to be sexual objects, we can be pretty sure that men in Haiti are perceived to be dominant so that sexual tourism of local men and foreign women is abnormal source of income which can threat Haiti’s social foundation. In this point, I cannot help but wondering if reverse situation could have happened if it is in Thailand and Legba was a woman. It might not happen in Thailand that a woman who is engaged in male tourist is killed by some woman even if there are some women who think sexual tourism is not right source of income.
    So Ellen and Brenda were clueless. They were powerless to rescue one’s life. They were just tourists from the start and to the end. Ellen’s line saying “This is Haiti” has connotations of that reality in Haiti and a man’s saying “Tourists never die” strengthens the connotations.

  27. daniellelong90 says:

    In response to review one: “The film is an engagement with a pattern of tourism and globalization that is inspired by the feminist movement of the 1970s. It is attentive to ethnic and linguistic realities; ultimately, it is a study in solidarities against the many forms of oppression that the North imposes on its women and others”

    I both agree and disagree with the review. I feel that the movie Heading South was a testament to the feminist movement of the 1970s due to the fact that during this time, women were empowered to take control of all aspects of their lives. In the case of this movie particularly, it demonstrated that women were empowered to take control of their sex lives. This is demonstrated by the fact that in the movie, women traveled south the Haiti to engage in romance tourism with the local men. These local men made the women feel special, beautiful, and empowered; all feelings they could not experience at home because of their home country’s social views of older women. I agree that Heading South is attentive to ethnic and linguistic realities. For example, both Brenda and Ellen switch back and forth between using French and English. Legba speaks and understands French, and when the women speak English, the show the empowerment they feel by being able to converse without Legba understanding them.

    However, where I disagree with the review when Lionnet uses the word “ultimately.” This word is too finite and limiting. I feel the movie was “a study in solidarities against the many forms of oppression that the North imposes on its women and others” but that is not the only thing the movie was about. By using “ultimately” Lionnet implies that this is the only interpretation of the movie.

  28. ananunez3 says:

    I’m replying to the third review.
    In this review the writer compliments on the performance of the actresses that interpret Brenda and Ellen but from them on its seems like the writer criticizes these women fro being too attached to Legba and not realizing that he has greater problems to worry about than the two women. I agree with the fact that they are not as important in his life as they might think but I also think that they are not as attached to Legba as the writer says. I feel like it is more of an obsession they have towards Legba since he is the only man so far that can make them feel loved and desired being as old as they were in the film. Brenda herself in the end agrees that it was not love what she felt for Legba but was just in love with the way he looked at her and the way he made her feel. Ellen on the other hand says she loved him and would do anything for him but i feel it was more like a need to have him as an object to look at and admire for his beauty. Both females felt like Legba belonged to them but really he belonged to no one. He did not even live with his mother but stayed either running away or hiding at women’s places. His life was not as free as people thought. In the end he was killed along with what seemed to be an ex girlfriend for reasons not specified. As a result of his death both Brenda and Ellen felt like they had no business in Haiti and both took separate ways. Brenda showed us how truly she was not in love with Legba as she goes in search for more men that can look at her the way Legba once did.

    • kjg07 says:

      I agree with your post. I also feel that there are greater problems to be discussed than just the women’s attachment to Legba. I feel like the review didn’t discuss the tension between the character’s and instead just highlighted some details about the story. I liked that you discussed how Legba belongs to no one because this clarifies that it wasn’t just the flashy clothes that got him killed but his troubled life, which we as an audience don’t get to see much of. I feel like you did a great job critiquing this review.

  29. xxxjo says:

    #Article No1
    This interpretation of the film has a very strong focus on the women and the feminist movement of the 1970s. But is this really the main story which the film wants to tell? Who are „the others“? Why are the called “the others” in the article?

    „The others“ – which are nameless, and I interpret as the domestic people of Haiti are not in the focus of the story according to the review no1. I think this is a mistake and repeats a power structure which the film wants to critique. Some stories are told and others not. The ones who are visible are “often” the western people, but „the others“ stay invisible. I think this is on thing which the film wants to critique, but the article paradoxical repeats. I think the film intended to make both worlds visible. As the article correctly says it is about “the pattern of tourism and globalization.”
    The film is also about the visibility of „the other“ and problematizes the acting of the tourist women. They objectify and exotizise Legba. They do not see him. Legba stays invisible for the female sextourists as he stays invisible for the spectator. But does Legba really stay invisible for the as the article no1 does present it? Yes, Legba is not telling us his story verbally, but we can see a few small images where he is „backstage“ e.g. playing soccer, meeting his mother, or crying alone in the dark. Also „Legba“ has a name.

    I critique that the article no1 says the film is a „study in solidarities against the many forms of oppression that the North imposes on its women and others.“ I think this hides that the film is mainly a study which is in solidarity with the „Global South“ and the impact globalization has on this part of the world. In my eyes the film is not mainly about oppression in the „Global North“ but a critique of the blindness of the feminist movement of the 1970s regarding oppression mechanisms which are executed by emanzipated western women. Global economic hierarchy systems work in their favour. In my eyes the movie mainly wants to be a critique of the unconciousness which western women have around global economic, racialiced power structures which are embedded in a colonial context and history. But the article does not underline that. The “South” stays invisible.

    The question is what do we think whose story “Heading South” is?

    • dluoo says:

      I agree with your interjection. I never realized the relevance of the title nor what kind of story it even wants to tell. I had always assumed Heading South was dealing with white womens’ intentions to go “south”, to go to Haiti, but the story that unfolds is less than perfect or even just mainly their experiences. To be sound, it’s almost as if “Heading South” is an ironic title: where it’s not just the women heading “south” to Haiti, but also the Haitians are in the state of “heading south” to chaos (like going down to hell/death). I’m not sure I explained myself properly, but perhaps what we see is that rather than it just be the adventurous and explications of romance/sexual tourism, the story that really unfolds is the “heading South” (going down, destruction) of Legba and the Haitian people.

  30. katherynevu says:

    In response to the second review, I felt that the critic saw the movie more of an entertainment piece than a message. The critic was striking a point that the issue that the movie was exploring was sex tourism, but I felt that the critic was more concerned about how “softcore” it was and not “provactive” enough that it disappoints. However, I believed the critic missed a greater point in the movie about message of sex tourism. Although I do agree that the movie may not have presented a stronger and “provocative” work, I believed that the work of the movie conveyed a strong insight into sex tourism. Heading South didn’t have a variety of scenes where the men and women of the local area are depressed or unwilling to participate, instead they were all in smiles, laughter, and joy with the women tourists. Brenda begins in the movie as a reserved, shy, and simple character. It seemed like she was only there to reconnect with Legba on a romantic level. The movie develops and by the end, Legba is killed and not a single tear is shed from Brenda’s eyes. She coolly leaves the island Haiti to meet other people of the other surrounding islands. This change of character in Brenda is what gives the message: in the end, sex tourism is happening and it will continue. Even after the death of Legba, the tourists continued to visit Haiti, and Brenda moving from island to island shows that sex tourism happens everywhere.

    • I angree with your response. I think the critic neglects the greater message of the movie in regards to romance tourism and instead the critic focuses on the activity of the film. It seems as though the critic had high expectations of the film before he even saw and was highly disappointed. When he compares the Heading South to Michel Houellebecq’s novel Platfor. Therefore, missing the film’s message about sex tourism not only in Haiti but all over. The critic writes, ” Despite what the two have in common, because it tackles head-on the tougher reality: sex tourism is – of course it is – about men exploiting women.” I believe there can be arguments about men exploiting women in the film but just like you, I agree and think that’s not the only message proposed for the film.

    • daniellelong90 says:

      I agree. The fact the not a single tear was shed from Brenda further emphasizes that sex tourism is not about emotional connections or anything real, but about an escape from reality. Brenda at first seems to have a connection with Legba, but in the end wants to continue to escape and travel to these other countries. This is how sex tourism became popular and will continue. As long as people feel the need to find this escape, they will continue to travel in search of it.

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