Opening 21 Sep 2006
Adopted from short stories written by Dany Laferriere, Vers le Sud is a lazy, drifting comment on a third world country, Haiti, once again exploited by their richer northern neighbors. This time however the exploiters weren’t wealthy plantation owners or mining companies, merely wealthy middle-aged American women, paying for sex from the local beach boys. Their rationalizations are selfish and racist, but truth easily fades in the heat and the sun. The effect of money on poorer countries can be just as influential and disastrous as a military invasion – it is just subtler.
Ellen (Charlotte Rampling) is an aging Boston French literature professor who has stayed at the same hotel for the past six years, enjoying the companionship of the local boys. Brenda returns fifteen years later, still remembering her first orgasm that she had experienced with a young boy named Legba. The battle between them for the handsome and full grown Legba’s attention and affection dominates the dialogue. How their token tips and lustful cravings affect Legba’s survival during the last years of Baby Doc’s dictatorship interests them not in the least. They are too absorbed by their own frustration of being unable to attract suitable partners to worry about how their selfish ways could affect the lives of other, lesser beings.
Unfortunately we learn little of substance about what was happening on the streets of Haiti, during the late 1970s, although it could as easily be now, twenty-five years later. Legba never expresses his attitudes other than to tell Ellen that she isn’t his mother and that he doesn’t want to be “rescued” by her and taken back to the States- a somewhat hollow gesture on her part. The black manager of the hotel reflects back on the invasion of the island in 1915 but makes little political comment otherwise. He merely comforts his guests after Legba’s death. Not to worry – tourists are never hurt. (Patricia Ritz)