Cowboys in
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Each year, thousands of women travel to Bali in search of paradise. And many find it in the arms of Kuta Cowboys, the bronzed beach ambassadors whoʼve made the island one of the worldʼs leading destinations for female sex tourists.

COWBOYS IN PARADISE gets between the sheets of Baliʼs ʻholiday romanceʼ trade to reveal some of the islandʼs most closely-guarded secrets. What separates a Cowboy from garden-variety gigolos? How do women compensate him? Why are time management skills crucial to his success? And how does his family feel about his colourful ways?

The film also charts the typical trajectory of a Cowboyʼs life, from entry into beach life to his reign at the top of the tourist-industry chain, before following his heartbreaking descent into obsolescence. By the end, the myth of paradise is shattered and the viewer is presented with a more realistic proposition: Paradise is always elsewhere.


It all began with the little boy.

Holidaying in Bali some years ago, I met a twelve-year-old Indonesian boy who insisted on speaking to me in Japanese. My grasp of the language is limited to what you’d find on a sushi menu, but he couldn’t have cared less. It didn’t even matter that I spoke Indonesian fairly well. He had made his decision and until a Japanese person showed up, I’d have to do.

When amusement finally gave way to annoyance, I asked him what the deal was. “I’m practicing,” he said. “When I grow up I want to sex-service Japanese girls.”

His reply was gleeful, and all the embarrassment was mine. Here was someone with a career goal most wouldn’t admit to, at an age when most don’t even have career goals!

Now, the fact that women pay for sex hardly fascinates me as a subject. Prostitution - in any variation - is not new ground for a filmmaker. Also, female sex tourism is common in poor countries and popular beach destinations, and Southeast Asia, where I’ve lived most of my life, has plenty of both.

But this was something else. Why was this boy so eager to get started in the flesh trade? Why was he taking pride in his perceived, future sexual prowess? And what does it say about Paradise, a term I’ve always eyed with suspicion anyway, when it can only offer its children such limited dreams of the future?

I had to find out. And when I did, I had to make this film.

Amit Virmani



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