Far more entertaining than reality TV’s “The Bachelor,” but with its own share of disturbing moments, “Love Translated” follows a dozen older Western men on a 10-day dating tour in Odessa, Ukraine, where, in a mind-boggling mix of tourism and speed dating, they meet hordes of young, scantily dressed beauties. While attentive to the dubious motives and deluded expectations on both sides of the, er, romantic equation, Moscow-born, Vancouver-based helmer Julia Ivanova remains nonjudgmental as she explores why these men and women desire a foreign mate. Further fest travel should segue to broadcast exposure, with niche theatrical possible.The tour company offers three “socials” well lubricated with liquor and loud music; hospitality center services so the men can continue to surf the website of Anastasia Intl., host of the tour; on-the-spot interpreters; and even a “do-it-yourself” fiancee visa kit. The first social, in a nightclub, involves the men judging a beauty pageant with the contestants in eye-popping swimwear and heels. The men have the glazed look of kids in a candy shop, with one happy client remarking, “This is a dream for every single, middle-aged man.” Hailing from the U.S., Canada, Sweden and France, the men (whose full names are not revealed onscreen) use different strategies to find their dream girl. Michael, an Asian financial consultant, prefers to let the women call him, and makes numerous appointments each day, while Ramon, a charming Latino physician, discovers the beautiful Galina early on, and gets to know her better on the following days. It’s not only the men who are hedging their bets. The women, too, have their eyes on more than one guy, leading to a little offscreen drama among the visiting males. Ivanova also incorporates interesting commentary from seen-it-all local cabbies, who call the dating tours an unrealistic scam with “professional brides” interested only as long as their potential groom’s money lasts. Meanwhile, interpreters from other dating services admit to writing florid follow-up emails on behalf of the women to make the company’s male clientele feel good. Humorous onscreen titles (e.g. “10 days = wife,” “1 day to go: Now or never”) help provide momentum to the good-looking, intelligently structured film. Ivanova slyly contrasts shots of romantic couples on the streets of Odessa with the tour’s increasingly exhausted bachelors, shown on the bus sleeping or frantically texting. A short, sweet epilogue shows which couple is together, surprisingly, six months later.
An Interfilm production with the participation of the Canadian Film and Video Production Tax Credit, the Province of B.C., Film Incentive B.C. (International sales: Cargo Film, New York.) Produced by Boris Ivanov. Directed, edited by Julia Ivanova.
Camera (color, DV), Rene Smith, Ivanova; music, Dave King, David Fleschner, Boris Sichon. Reviewed on DVD, Chicago, Sept. 22, 2010. (In Chicago Film Festival -- Docufest; Vancouver Film Festival -- Canadian Images.) Running time: 84 MIN.
Ramon, Galina, Ernie, Lilya, Michael, Calvin. (Russian, Ukrainian, English dialogue)