Amit Virmani’s documentary focuses on European, American and Japanese women who travel to Bali in search of male companionship. The so-called Kuta Cowboys congregate on the beaches of the Balinese resort, where they hope to spin their modest surfing instruction and tour guide operations into something far more lucrative. Indeed, several young men have profited from their experiences: gifts of homes and new cars are showered on them by adoring women.
The men interviewed by Virmani are not the least bit ashamed of their gigolo status – they openly brag at how they play their clients to the fullest, and one man’s wife is actually pleased that her husband can provide a steady income for their growing family through his sex trade work. The women who rely on these men for entertainment and companionship don’t seem bothered about the nature of their activities – or, at least, not the relatively few women who agree to be interviewed on camera.
Virmani insists that this activity plays a considerable role in the Balinese economy – but when the film’s trailer hit the Internet in April 2010, Indonesian authorities expressed outrage and directed the police to temporarily arrest 28 Kuta Cowboys.
On the whole, “Cowboys in Paradise” would have benefited from sharper editing – there is a high degree of repetition in the anecdotes and observations being offered, while a few of the men interviewed for the film are, quite frankly, not the most interesting raconteurs. But on the whole, the film provides an interesting glimpse at the distaff side of the Asian sex trade industry.