Heartland: The Unexpected Pull of a Small Danish Town

May 16, 2022

Ella Hardy

Sommai came to Thy to marry Niels, a Danish man. The couple met in Pattaya, Thailand, a city that is a notorious destination for so-called ‘sex tourists’. Sommai, a former sex worker herself, now helps other Thai women come to Thy and advertise themselves for marriage, hoping to find Danish husbands that can support them and their families.

The film centers mainly around Kae, Sommai’s cousin. Kae is seeking a husband and Sommai puts out an ad for her, though Kae seems reluctant at first. She must be coached in the car en route to meet a potential suitor; “Think of all the people who want to come and can't. The ones working in Pattaya. Lots of women want to come here. You have better opportunities than women in Pattaya. You've been given a big chance, so behave yourself."

Both Kae and Sommai express their desire to make money for their families at home in Thailand. Remittances, money sent home by migrants in foreign countries to support their families, can be vital for lifting families out of poverty and Kae becomes more enthusiastic about her union with Kjeld when she hears; "Aunt Sommai says that he understands. He understands that I want to help my child at home." Later, Kae reunites her family by securing Danish residency for her teenage son, Mark.  

While Sommai and Kae enjoy seemingly successful marriages, the film focuses on another couple; Frank and Basit, who have drifted apart. "I never thought about divorce and suddenly it's there" a tearful Basit explains. The two have opposite views on their marital strife; while Frank attributes the split to his drinking problem and Basit secretly building a house in Thailand, Basit claims it is because her husband has not been speaking nicely to her.

The relationships portrayed in ‘Heartland’ are complex, a union between economic practicality and genuine companionship. When Sommai asks Frank if he wants a new wife he answers: “I can't replace Basit. I feel it would be a replacement for Basit. I can't do that.”

‘Heartland’ tells the poignant stories of love, loss and of family. It shows the difficulty of having a foot in two worlds and the push and pull of living across cultures. “Love is a strange thing.” Sommai’s husband Niels says, “it hits you when you least expect it."

‘Heartland’ is part of THE WHY Foundation’s ‘Film of the Month’, available for free on YouTube for the month of May. Check out the film here.

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