Say I Do “Mail Order Brides” 2003
Distributed by Filmakers Library, 124 East 40th Street, New York, NY 10016; 202-808-4980
Produced by Erik Paulsson and Arlene Ami
Directed by Arlene Ami
VHS, color, 52 min.
Sr. High - Adult
Women's Studies, Canadian Studies, Domestic Violence, Human Rights, Gender Studies
Date Entered: 01/09/2004Reviewed by Gloria Maxwell, Reference Librarian, Penn Valley Community College, Kansas City, MO
Say I Do follows the stories of three “mail order brides” originally from the Philippines, but now living in Canada; one story concerns a young woman waiting for a “fiancée visa” before she can actually come to Canada to marry. The common thread connecting these women is the extreme poverty their families live in and the opportunity that marriage abroad provides as a means for providing support and money for the brides and their families. The Philippines have a population of eighty million people, with 87% living in poverty. Ten million Filipinos live abroad, sending 12 billion dollars home each year. The biggest opportunity for advancement lies in finding a way to live abroad. One such opportunity is becoming a “mail order bride” to a man living outside their own country. Potential husbands find brides through Pen Pal programs, which are now flourishing on the Internet.
This documentary interviews three husbands and their wives, a prospective groom and his fiancée, activists in women’s groups, as well as the Website operator of Island Girls. John Uthoff says that his web site is better than a catalog (his original venue). Men want beautiful girls, and Filipino women are the most desirable because they are Christian, Uthoff explains. Men looking for mail order brides are searching for Christian women with good family values. Many are divorced and are looking for women who won’t leave them. They want children and a normal family life. They describe Canadian women as spoiled, and believe that Asian women are more likely to have the qualities they are looking for in a potential wife. Internet pen pal websites provide them with a way to meet prospective brides willing to come to a new country.
For the women desperate for a better life and a means to help support their families, becoming a mail order bride is their best option. Most only know about the United States and do not know anything about Canada. They expect to come to a big city with tall buildings and shopping malls. Instead, many find themselves in remote locales, with big pine trees, cold climate and little or no shopping malls. A sense of isolation descends upon them. Most brides find themselves marrying a total stranger. They do not know the groom’s background, and he doesn’t know theirs. For some women, they find themselves in violent and abusive marriages. The lucky ones find a good mate who provides them with stability and a decent life.
Activists describe these arrangements as trafficking in women, and consider this a violation of human rights. From a more practical standpoint, and considering the desperate situations most are trying to leave, this is a much more honorable means of improving their families’ lives, as well as their own. It is a risky chance all of them are willing to accept, if offered the chance.
Say I Do has good technical quality throughout. It would be useful in support groups for Filipino women, prevention of abuse programs, and college programs dealing with Sociology, Gender Studies, and Human Rights.