Private Project


  • Steff Gruber
    Passion Despair (2011), Secret Moments (2006), Location Africa (1987), Fetish and Dreams (1985), and others
  • Steff Gruber
  • Christopher Jarvis
  • Geoffrey Giuliano
    Key Cast
  • Hermes Liberty
    Key Cast
  • Awita Jasmine Rueangchan
    Key Cast
  • Vann Kong Kia
    Key Cast
  • Natacha Oracha
    Key Cast
  • Jessica Terakupt
    Key Cast
  • Joe Bryan Baker
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Feature, Other
  • Genres:
  • Runtime:
    2 hours 5 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    April 1, 2015
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
    Cambodia, Thailand
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    video, super-8
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Steff Gruber

Steff Gruber was born in 1953 in Zurich.

Between 1972 and 1979 he attended film seminars and courses at the University of Zurich, ETH Zürich [Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich] and F+F, Schule für Gestaltung (Zürich) [F+F Zurich College of Design]. In 1976 he studied Mass Philosophy at the University of Georgia (USA), where he became friends with film director and painter James Herbert.

Since 1978 Gruber has been working as an independent filmmaker. He became internationally recognized for his documentary ”Location Africa” portraying the film director Werner Herzog and the actor Klaus Kinski.

Gruber taught at various schools and colleges, for example, he was a lecturer for Film, Video, and Electronic Media at FH Konstanz [Konstanz Technical College] from 1994 to 1997. Besides his various occupations, he also runs the film production company KINO.NET AG.

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Director Statement

"It is for the act of creation that one leaves."
Ways of Escape by Graham Greene

The theme of this film, set against the backdrop of a multifaceted love story, is my personal struggle with my own aging, my longing for my lost youth and the prospect of my remaining years.

The older expats, who have all had to pay their own price to live in this presumed paradise, serve as a mirror to my own life. I’m also preoccupied with the fate of young Asian women alongside western adventurers.

The view through my camera and my attitude at the composing bench is unbiased; I don’t classify my actors “good” or “evil”. I see myself as a documentarist faithful to the truth. My protagonist quotes Bob Dylan: "The truth has many different levels."

These levels exist in my films to satisfy a dramaturgical principle. Black and white is to me only a property of my cited video material. I dismiss any judgments from the audience. The work must stand by itself.

Today, documentary films committed to investigative journalism come from sensational revelations, where "good" can be clearly distinguished from "evil". This might address the wish of the viewer, who likes to take the side of the “good”. But this is not interesting, because the world is far more complex and has many facets. I explore these various levels by the means of film. Subtle portraits result from the many interviews I conducted with expats and Asian ladies. One must listen carefully. Sometimes the core of the statement lies between the lines, or in what is not said.

My camera is my personal microscope, which I use to better understand the world.

I was five years on the road making this movie. These long time observations enabled insights into the characters and the souls of the people I portrayed, that would not have been possible through sporadic contacts. This method enabled me to document the development of the people involved. When I first interviewed him in 2009, the expat George, for instance, was an aggressive sex tourist, whose world turned around solely to satisfy his lust. Four years later, he looks completely changed both outside and inside. Not only does he fight against increasing impotence, he also sees the world through different eyes.
I also changed during the filming. I changed not only by meeting the love of my youth, Malee, and the confrontation with Roman Guy, my alter ego. I also learned I could move my personal limits. Even my point of view, my outlook of the world, is different today, post FIRE FIRE DESIRE.

My film-documented trip through Southeast Asia is also a travelogue through the thoughts of a Lawrence Durrell or a Bruce Chatwin; the images of the outer world illustrate the inner world. The metaphor from Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness", the journey on the river up into the jungle, where the renegade Colonel Kurtz lives as self-appointed ruler, has a place in our cultural heritage. The metaphor has been applied several times in the history of cinema, and has often been used as a dramaturgical structure. Impressive examples include Werner Herzog's "Aguirre, the Wrath of God" and Francis Ford Coppola's "Apocalypse Now". Thus my "Kurtz", Roman Guy, lives on a river in the hard-to-reach triangle" of Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. Here, where during the Vietnam War there was once the Ho Chi Minh trail, and where weapons, supplies, and Vietcong fighters were conveyed through areas controlled by the Americans in South of Vietnam, Roman Guy runs a brothel.

Through the medium of the film, I invite the viewers to travel with me across Southeast Asia, and to look into various mirrors, which I have discreetly constructed for them on the wayside.

The expat Joe asks in the film: "People go away and disappear and then you've got to find them. Why? Why do you have to find them? It’s because you want to know what they know. He knew something I didn’t know and I have to find it also."

Zurich, February 2015