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Loving a Stranger cover photo

Loving a Stranger 2013


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 and Boris Ivanov
DVD , color, 88 min.

General Adult
Canadian Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, Multicultural Studies, Women’s Studies, Social Sciences

Date Entered: 06/11/2013

Reviewed by Linda Frederiksen, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA

When western and eastern values and expectations meet, the outcome is not always a happy one, as the four Canadian women in this film discover. While it is true that many intercultural relationships succeed, others quickly fall apart, leaving behind a trail of heartache, shattered hopes and betrayal. Causes for these failures are often a complex mixture of deceit, guilelessness, and misunderstanding.

Single-parent Roxanne overcomes the difficulty of a long-distance romance with a younger Moroccan man by sponsoring his move to Vancouver, BC. Stephanie has a charming fiancé she met through an internet dating site but about whom she knows very little. Revengeful Lainie, a dancer and performance artist, who met and married her husband in Guinea, now seeks his deportation after he abandons her upon arrival in Canada. And, finally, frightened Alison is in hiding from a charismatic but abusive Pakistani with a suspicious political background.

Although the men in this feature-length documentary are all Muslims, the core clash between the Islamic world and the West, as illustrated by the four personally narrated storylines, is over issues of culture and gender roles not religion. There is a strong implication that the men unfairly misrepresented themselves as potential husbands to gain green card entry into Canada, a country with one of the highest immigration rates in the world. Promotional material and a segment of the film features Lainie, dressed in a bridal dress and veil with a large door strapped to her back walking the streets of Ottawa. The performance dramatically illustrates its point. At the same time, however, the film lacks a discussion of how much responsibility must also rest with the women, whose naïveté about conflicting values and cultural expectations were not acknowledged until too late. This is an intimate and cautionary tale about what can happen to the people involved when two cultures collide.