Mail-Order Brides?

Marriage by Correspondence

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The documentary, Mail-Order Brides, was shot in 1993 and edited in 2024.
A new documentary about these folks today is in development
to be paired with the current work.

Mail-Order Brides? An Ethnographic and Feminist Documentary

Mail-Order Brides? is a provocative feature documentary that delves deeply into the complex phenomenon of pen pal courtship and marriage between Filipinas and American men in the early 1990s.

This multimedia documentary uses ethnographic and feminist research perspectives to challenge the sensationalized narrative often portrayed by the media, where Filipina women are depicted as commodities in the mail-order bride market. Instead, it presents these women as agents navigating through the socio-economic and cultural landscapes of their time.

The documentary underscores how Filipinas, seen as a natural resource of the Philippines, are both pushed by many local adversities and pulled by the lure of better opportunities in the USA, revealing a multifaceted story of resilience and survival.

The documentary critically examines the myriad factors that drive Filipina women to seek foreign husbands, particularly seeking those from the USA. Central to this exploration are the priority of virginity in RP society, the absence of divorce in the Philippines, a significant impediment that left many women trapped in untenable marriages, and more push-pull factors. Additionally, the documentary highlights the lack of support from Filipino men and the failures of government policies, especially in the aftermath of the 1986 IMF debt crisis, which plunged the nation into economic hardship.

Through the lens of women's studies and feminism, Mail-Order Brides? contextualizes these marriages within broader discussions of global economic pressures and local patriarchal structures, offering a comprehensive understanding of the motivations behind these transnational unions.

Featuring in-depth interviews with many women and men themselves who are engaging in pen pal writing, and insights/critique from several prominent advocacy and scholarly voices for women’s issues.

The documentary sheds light on the psychology of mate selection and the socio-political factors that shape these women's decisions to leave their homes. The documentary connects past issues with present-day realities, emphasizing the continued relevance of these topics in the internet age.

Mail-Order Brides? not only provides a historical account but also serves as a poignant commentary on the enduring impact of economic policies and gender dynamics on the lives of Filipina women, ultimately advocating for a more nuanced and empathetic understanding of their experiences.