Ivan tries his best to find Mexican wives for his Gringo clients
Brilliantly produced little documentary about Ivan Thompson, a 60 year old New Mexico based matchmaker who, for a $3,000 fee, will help a U. S. man find a Mexican woman to marry. Ivan, who was a working cowboy before starting his love match business 16 years ago, calls himself the "Cowboy Cupid." He's wiry, energetic, cheerful, mannerly, highly principled, and a natural comedian.
The sleaze factor for this guy is non-existent. He is especially courteous to the Mexican women he lines up for his clients to meet and to the women's families. He uses personal ads run in Mexican newspapers in at least one city where we go along to observe him making contacts, Torreon, south of Juarez. He also has a Mexican woman in country who helps him with ad composition and communications with the women, who vary in their English proficiency.
He advertises to men domestically on roadside signs and I don't know how else. He says that when he started there were about 15 businesses like his, but since the advent of the Internet, he guesses that thousands of people now offer the sort of services he performs.
In the film we follow the fortunes of three of Ivan's clients: Rick, James and Lee, very different sorts. Things work out well for two of them: Ivan is successful in aiding them to establish solid relationships that end in marriage (Ivan attends one of the celebrations). A fascinating subtext to the story is the perceptions and experience of participants in these arrangements, with regard to cultural differences and gender.
The American men say that American women are too hard to please. The Mexican women say that Mexican men exploit and subjugate them. Each group feels that the opposite sex in the other culture by-and-large offers something better than what they are accustomed to back home. Ivan gets some nasty mail, especially from American women, calling him a scam artist, a shameful man who has no pride in his own country, a disgusting person who aids and abets the problem of illegal immigration. He just laughs all this off, and writes scathing rebuttals to his detractors.
This is Michèle Ohayon's third feature length documentary; I have not seen the two earlier ones, "Colors Straight Up" (1997), which depicts a theater arts program for inner city kids, or "It Was a Wonderful Life" (1993), about homeless women. "Cowboy" is highly accomplished: the photography, organization, editing and music (a wonderful series of Latin American numbers) are all first rate. Interesting shots of Mexican street life punctuate the scenes of Ivan hard at work in Torreon. The end credits are terrific: do not talk or leave your seat until Ivan himself tells you it is "the end." My grade: B+ 8/10
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