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10 Days = Wife: Love Translated

Distributed by Interfilm Productions Inc.,, 304-1515 West Hastings St., Vancouver, BC V6G 3G6, Canada; 604-638-8920
Produced by Boris Ivanov
Directed by Julia Ivanova
DVD , color, 84 min.
Sr. High - General Adult
International Relations, Multicultural Studies, Psychology, Sociology

Reviewed by Meghann Matwichuk, Morris Library, University of Delaware

Date Entered: 5/30/2013

10 Days = Wife: Love Translated gives the viewer a window into the dynamics of the international dating tour circuit. Using a fly-on-the-wall approach and interviews with participants and by-standers, filmmaker Julia Ivanova follows the pursuits of several North American men as they take part in a vacation organized by a Ukrainian dating tour company. Motives and expectations often clash, in ways that are in turns surprising and expected. The film begins with a Canadian banker about to leave for his vacation. He tells the camera, "I have never had real girls in my life." The rest of the film dissects that key phrase. What are 'real girls'—and can they be found in the Ukraine? Is that what these men truly want in the first place?

A dating guide given to the men before their trip cautions them to "be realistic": "[You are] seeking a partner, not a statue." Yet the women, almost exclusively in their late teens and early twenties, appear as just that—statuesque physiques in revealing clothing and stiletto heels. As the viewer meets the hopeful men, a common thread becomes apparent. The men are generally two decades or more older than the women, and view themselves as either inexperienced or unsuccessful at finding lasting relationships. One man speaks of the need to "do something dramatic"—and so, half-way around the world, these men attempt to forge a connection with one of these women, most of whom do not speak English (none of the men speak Ukrainian). An attractive young translator works to facilitate communication, most of which is banal at best. For many, initial sparks devolve into petty disputes and game-playing. The participants speak to each other in generalities and platitudes—a stark contrast to the interview footage, which is where the romantic hopefuls voice their desires, and stereotypes and expectations are dissected.

Some men bemoan the loss of traditional notions of femininity in North American women, assuming that they will find these lost 'virtues' in Eastern Europe: "Feminism robbed women of an identity they once took great pride in." "[These] women pride themselves on making meals," explains one hopeful man as he justifies his travels. The filmmaker cuts to a first-time social attendee: "I hate cooking." Although some of the men refuse to see it, these young women are struggling to get ahead and facing challenges strikingly similar to that of their North American counterparts. "There's no time for housework; I am busy with work and studying." Or, more boldly: "Men are just an accessory. Women want to have it all." One man explains that his paramour will be given an ultimatum—she must quit her career as a singer if she wishes to be with him. Up to this point, she has been showered with gifts (jewelry, clothing, etc.), and quietly slips back into the music scene with, one can assume, very little regret. Ukrainian men raise their eyebrows at the foreigners, referring to them as 'professional grooms'. As one participant says late in the film after revealing that this trip has been his twelfth, "It is an addiction."

The film occasionally breaks from the dating scenarios and interviews. Footage of one young woman's tiny apartment sets the stage for a conversation about her struggles to make ends meet as an underpaid schoolteacher. She shows the camera a rose made out of metal that she carries for self defense. Even the men, in a late interview, recognize the risks these women face if they try to escape their circumstances. Should they choose to pursue their new relationships, they will be forced to leave their family and friends behind—leaving them without a support group. The party scenes and awkward dinners hint at these darker undercurrents, and the filmmaker leaves it to the viewer to decide how he or she feels about this curious phenomenon.