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Love Me - The Documentary

From John Narducci's Los Angeles-based Powershot Productions comes the latest expose into the fascinating world of international romance tours. “Love Me - The Documentary,” collaboration between Powershot and the oft-scrutinized Phoenix, Arizona-based A Foreign Affair, (whose website, loveme.com, inspired the name of the film) will debut this month at the Toronto Film Festival. A true labor of love constructed after three years of exhaustive filming, interviewing, editing, and research, “Love Me” parallel’s the experiences of 6 mostly middle-aged foreign bride finders as they travel to Ukraine in search of a wife.

Though A Foreign Affair has been introducing domestic men to international women for roughly the past 15 years, the romance tour phenomenon is still unknown to millions of eligible bachelors. Here, Narducci sets up the preliminary how and why hundreds of men each year learn about romance tours and decide, sometimes out of sheer dating-desperation, to join one. Bobby, from Virginia, says, "I don't meet a lot of folks for relationship purposes." Travis, looking longingly out over a frozen Wisconsin lake in mid-winter echoes, "I just didn't want to be alone anymore. Ron adds "I typed into Google something about mail-order-brides. A Foreign Affair came up. I started getting letters from some women in Ukraine. I didn’t even know what Ukraine was. I spent a lot of money on correspondence and I thought, I got to just go over there and meet these women.” And meet women he did.

Once on the ground in Ukraine, Ron and his romance tour brothers are nervously introduced to hundreds of beautiful Ukrainian ladies at AFA’s singles parties, called “socials.” In a tastefully effective environment, there’s dancing, champagne, and lots of flirting. The women are indeed lovely and plentiful. Even Robert, the paternal tour leader, seems to be having the time of his life playing “get to know me” games with ladies. With their jet lag and initial jitters behind them, and dates lined up from here to high heaven, the group gets off to a promising start. You’re already thinking, “This looks way too easy.”

And you'd be right.

All the men meet women they fall in love with, except Ron. Ron seems to struggle with his decision to participate in a romance tour from the beginning and looks uncomfortable during the social introduction process. Ultimately, he decides all Ukrainian women are too "unfriendly" and returns home to date American again. Eric, a likeable, mild-mannered Texan and Robert, a Civil Engineer from Fresno, California meet cuddly blondes, Inna and Vitalina, who seem genuinely happy to have been fished out of the Black Sea of faces. Eric and Robert both go on to get engaged and married. Life after marriage has it's usual challenges and celebrations: Eric and Inna have a baby boy. Vitalina's father passes away shortly after her arrival here in the states.

The remaining three romance tourists, Bobby, Travis and Michael, find love - and confusion - abroad as things start out well but don't work out as expected. After months of correspondence, Bobby's girl does not readily accept his marriage proposal, delivered an hour after they finally meet at a hotel restaurant. Travis plans a follow up visit to Odessa to spend more time with his Victoria. All goes well for awhile, until... And Michael, a gregarious Aussie whose beauty from Kiev is obviously more in love with her than she is with him. Can he turn things around? "I'm going to give it my best (explicative) shot," he promises.

For John Adams, loveme.com's CEO and Romance Tour Leader, orchestrating the daily introductions and large social parties for a group of 25 - 50 men, half of whom have never traveled out of the country before and many who may not have dates successfully in recent months, if not years, can't be an easy task. Some men appear to be more than eager to get the tour's events underway. Others are obviously not in their comfort zone. How much of an impact will 20 years of Tour Leadership have at critical times?

Love Me is thought-provoking. At times poignant. At other times, jubilant. And in the end, it leaves viewers with plenty of questions to ponder about men, women and the lengths every day ordinary people may go to, to find love and live happily every after.

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