Love Me – Day 7 FFF 2014

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Mrs. LanceAround Interviews Jonathon Narducci Director of Love Me

Mrs. LanceAround with Jonathon Narducci Director of Love Me

Prior to the feature documentary we had the short Tim And Susan Have Matching Handguns. This two minute documentary short adds nothing to its title, except, perhaps the knowledge that one of the main reasons given for buying matching handguns is so they can quickly exchange ammo, in the event they need to. To paraphrase Seinfeld, if your biggest need is to be able to quickly exchange handgun ammo, perhaps making sure your handguns match is the least of your problems. On to the main attraction…

This year is shaping up to be a great year for documentaries and Love Me is no exception. In the film, filmmaker Jonathon Narducci joins busloads of men who travel to the Ukraine in search of new love. The film follows several of these men as they attempt to establish a relationship with women who, in many cases, do not even speak their language. Before the trip to the Ukraine, some of the men “met” some of the women through the company “A Foreign Affair” using their website called “LoveMe.com.” LanceAround considered not even revealing the name of the website because he highly recommends you have nothing to do with them. You will understand the reason for staying away from this website when you read the following exclusive interview he and Mrs. LanceAround conducted with filmmaker Jonathon Narducci after watching the movie at the Enzian Theater.

LA: At one point in the movie, a man asks his Ukrainian bride to give him his ring back because she just made it clear she did not want to be married to him. The movie does not show it, but did he get the ring back?

JN: Yes

LA: At some point during the movie at least two different men expressed concern that they were being scammed. In your opinion, were they being scammed?

JN: Everyone was being scammed.

LA: Excuse me?

JN: They all were being scammed. The nature of the industry is to do little scams. That’s the economy of tourism in the Ukraine, beyond the sex industry. They come up with little scams to do to everyone. Everyone was being manipulated and lied to. It’s marriage and sex tourism in the Ukraine.

LA:  While watching the movie, I didn’t get the impression that everything was a scam. Did I miss something or what is the disconnect?

Bride From The Ukraine?

Bride From The Ukraine?

JN: I think it was more of a choice to avoid making the expose film. I think when you say, “oh I made a film about mail order brides.” I think most people think it’s going to be an expose. I made a conscious choice to avoid that. I catch some of the aspects of it in there, but the reality is the people that did “make it” were not getting scammed. They met a person. They met and they actually fell in love–or some interpretation of their version of love–whether it’s coincidence or some kind of, I don’t know, situation that works for both people…I mean, marriage is a partnership. It’s not just love. I called it Love Me because that’s the name of the company and I think that’s what those guys wanted…and ultimately probably what I want…but I didn’t want to dive too deep on the negative and make it an expose. It also would have been too simple, too obvious of a film. Going into the film, I was much more idealistic. I thought I would have equal parts women from Ukraine and equal parts men from America but the reality is that I’m an American man…so it’s coming through my lens, my perception, my consciousness, my awareness of the way it is. I don’t understand what it is to be a woman–and I don’t understand what it means to be a Ukrainian woman–so we tried to show their story, show what they gave up for these men, as much as we possibly could. But that was the challenge.

LA: But how many Ukrainian women actually moved here? According to your numbers…

JN: I went on five tours with two different companies. Average tour was probably about 30 guys.

LA: So 30 guys and you said that there were around 200 women at a town…

JN: Yea…We go to three towns…

LA: That’s 6000 Ukrainian women…

JN: No, I’d say we’re talking about 600 Ukrainian women that they get exposed to…

LA:… And how many of those get married.

JN: In my experience, I saw two…

LA: Two out of…

JN: Yes, the percentage is beyond low…Now, would the company say something differently? Totally. They’ll give you numbers, but they can’t manufacture those numbers. We can’t even get those numbers from the state department. It’s a K1 Visa. It’s a very weird visa. It’s a visa for people…something to do with “altruistic”… I can’t even remember the legal term…basically it’s a “love visa.” And it’s really easy to get, so it’s bizarre.

LA: I understand. Here’s what I’m struggling with as a member of the audience…after watching this film…

JN: …You believe it’s possible…

LA:…Well, my thought is, “This company is legitimate.” Yes, I would expect the percentages to be very low, but a couple people did wind up with some marriages, you wind up with a baby, it seemed more legitimate than I was expecting. And now, talking to you and hearing the Q & A afterwards, I’m like, “Whoa, that film didn’t portray the reality I’m hearing now.”

JN: I can definitely agree with it possibly being inaccurate with the numbers of guys we show–since we show five guys–basically we’re choosing those guys based on narrative arcs–not necessarily on their interests. There were more charismatic people that we left out because nothing happened. I was basically showing this process from beginning to end. I hope it doesn’t legitimize the business too much; because there’s a lot of illegitimate aspects to this industry. That’s why we kept in some of those sketchy aspects. Ultimately, there’s no way I can prove anything. I was really trying to go for a more humanistic love story and showing people that are really desperate and looking for love. Because everyone’s dating online now; this is just like a bastardized version of that. It takes it to another level. Also, I will note this, in Columbia, in the Philippines it’s a much higher of a response from what I understand; there’s a lot more marriages that happen compared to the Ukraine.

LA: So let me ask you this…30 guys on the tour?

JN:…Yes…

LA: You’ve been to the 3rd city. You’re on the bus. You’re driving back to the airport ready to go home…what are most of the 30 men saying at that point?

JN: Most of them, at that point, honestly, they’re on a sex tour. I’d say the majority of them originally go over there looking for a wife…They’re being sold that they can find a wife in a week…because these women are also being sold something that’s sort of bullsh*t. But everyone believes that. After day two they realize that prostitution’s very cheap. They realize that prostitution’s very accessible…and they’ve never had the access to this…they’ve never traveled abroad before…They’re going to the sex destination of Europe. A lot of these guys are mostly confused as to why they even came, except for they had a good time…and they’re drunk…the majority of them. I’d say about 30% are very pragmatic people…people that are self aware and honest and not seeing the thing in front of them and just grabbing it and eating it. They were the ones we ended up following because they were the ones that were honest with themselves and honest with us. And I think that was the same with the woman. That’s who we mainly included in this film.

LA: In your opinion, does John Adams [one of the principles for the website], in his heart of hearts, know that he is running a scam?

JN: No. No. I think John concentrates on that one in a thousand. And that’s what makes him honestly happy. And you know it’s his livelihood. He’s not a bad guy. I can tell a bad person from a good person. He’s not a bad guy. I think it’s just the industry he’s in. And you know what, I only went to one country he operates in. I’m sure that they operate a lot differently in some other countries. I know they would. Ukraine is a rough place with an industry that’s been developed over 25 years of doing this. It’s not strange for him to be operating a company that has stuff that goes awry. I think he maybe turns a blind eye to a lot of it. But he has to follow laws that are enforced by FBI so he can’t do anything too intense.

LA: There must be a lot of clients who demand to get their money back, who report to the BBB, “I spent $10,000 and this is all a scam…” Did you encounter any of that?

JN: Oh, yeah, definitely, basically we hired a lawyer to go through their website. They basically just spell it out for you…they [the clients] are just not willing to read it. It’s like, “We can’t guarantee that these are the people writing these letters. We can’t do this. We can’t promise this.” The ultimate reality is that everyone in the Ukraine has Skype and a laptop and more internet connectivity than here. The fact that they have to use these translation services…it’s the men choosing to do so. They’re making that choice because they want to live in that virtual reality. They want to stay there.

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