The CinéDOC-Tbilisi festival starts tonight and what is the habit of most festivals for the opening night film, this is a light and entertaining one. With a subject that has been treated again and again, mostly in kliché-language: White male from Western country goes to Thailand and finds a wife. He wants an obedient woman with whom he can have sex. Thai woman wants to marry to be able to survive herself and support her family. Of course there are many nuances and the director manages to get some of them out of the shade because Carolin Genreith’s father is wonderful as a film character. He is quite open to all the questions coming from his daughter, he fights hard to learn the thai language, he likes his wife to be, who is 30 years younger than him, close to the age of his daughter – he wants as a 60 year old to have a good rest of time, he can not stand to be alone any longer. He is energetic at his farm in Germany, a farm he takes care of, when he is not in his office at the city hall, if I got it right. In other words, he is present, the camera likes him. But the cultural differences are big, the understanding of what is love, the understanding of what is a family is not the same in Germany and Thailand. The first third part of the film takes place in Germany with father and daughter. Then off to Thailand where father Dieter, daughter Carolin and Thai woman Tukta are in focus.
The festival has included the presentation text of the director/daughter. Here it is:
”It’s probably every daughter’s worst nightmare: a postcard from Thailand that reads: “My darling, I’m doing great here, eating Pad Thai and drinking Chang Beer. And I met a woman who is your age. Love, Dad.” My father has changed a lot in the past couple of years. After separating from my mother, he exchanged his hiking boots for flip-flops and travels to Thailand every year for a couple of weeks. Sometimes he travels alone, sometimes with friends – all of whom are divorced and over 60. My father says that he is having the time of his life in Thailand. I think to myself: Oh my God, is my father a sex tourist? To me the Thailand trips are a source of embarrassment. Has my father become one of those men who are strolling the streets of Bangkok in the company of a young, attractive local woman? What is he looking for? Are his trips just aimed at finding happiness or an expression of his inner race against time? And now: a Thai girlfriend, 30 years younger than him! What does my father want from her? And what the hell does she want from him? I keep wondering whether I should just ignore my father’s postcard from Thailand or make a flm about it. I choose the latter option and travel to my home village in the Northern Eifel region in order to understand the man who is my father and whom I’ve always found somewhat embarrassing. Too loud. Too outgoing. Too odd. My father lives quietly in a half-timbered house with many rooms and low ceilings. It’s lonely there and it’s sad. We approach each other in ruthless discussions. What does he long for? What are his fears? And – most importantly: Does my father really intend to marry his young, attractive girlfriend? Is that right? We travel to Thailand together, where I meet my almost stepmother and her family. Slowly but surely I begin to realize that there are no defnite answers to my various indignant questions. Happy is an affectionate, ruthless, cheerful and very personal documentary about a father and his daughter, the search for happiness in the autumn years of life and the question of what love actually is when you are over 60 and afraid of growing old alone.”
Germany, 2016, 85 mins.