June, 2003. During the final month of their year-long stay in Fiji, indie-film gurus John and Janet Pierson and their two children host a documentary film crew. John's been showing free movies at the 288-seat 180 Meridian Cinema, in remote Natokalan Village on the island of Taveuni. Reality intrudes in paradise: their home is burgled, the local Catholic priest criticizes John's project, their daughter's behavior may be threatening the reputation of her friend, and John's prickly personality follows him. Against this backdrop, the Fijians laugh at the Three Stooges, Buster Keaton, and "Jackass: The Movie." John finishes the year with ten movies in ten days: do movies matter? Written by
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I fell in love with Fiji several years ago and return every June to detox from America. Fiji represents amazing incongruencies that push the visitor to the edge. You have unspeakable beauty and isolation in such a remote location but it is also a third world country that the British, of course, left in bad shape in the 1970's. Reel Paradise and its cast capture the contradictions that are ever present--down to the detail. And this is coming from someone who intimately knows Fijians and the culture. In fact, in many ways, Reel Paradise could be my story. The first time I arrived in Fiji my life was in complete transition. So I was completely open to all the joys and problems that come with Fiji. I experienced many of the misadventures, close friendships and odd occurrences that the Pearson's endured. This movie brilliantly captures the emotional struggles associated with painful choices and growth. I am loath to use pop psychology in my daily lexicon but I am sure the Pearson's did not realize they were indeed providing film viewers with a typical family's adjustment to life and all of its meltdowns. But with a twist. It isn't in some horrid American suburb but in a place so far away that most of its peoples were still living in bures only 40 years ago. This is why Reel Paradise is so special. I remember so vividly the first time I saw the star of the movie: the movie house itself. I was completely dumbfounded by such an odd sight. What was the story behind this old crumbling relic just beyond the international dateline? In fact the cinema was hardly in a village at all on an island far from Fiji's main island. It conjured up images of grey gardens --albeit one with kava, crime and conflicted relationships. Please experience Reel Paradise and know that this is as real as one may ever get to Fiji.
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