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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
Ok, so this is very important to you to get paid $311.28, it's very important for you to have this tomorrow, we sustained our second robbery in your house, tonight's robbery, I believe the total lost will come around fifteen-$10,000. Yeah, so I'll make sure you get your $311.28 tomorrow. I'LL MAKE FUCKING SURE OF IT!
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We rented Reel Paradise anticipating a look into the trials of running a movie theater in a remote location, and dealing with cultural and language challenges. Evidently there weren't enough trials to fill the film, so the trials of being urban Americans in a non-urban culture filled in the gaps.
It was embarrassing to watch the teenage Fijian girl tell the camera how it's strange to watch the American girl talk to her parents. "We don't... talk like that". The tattooed and pierced American 16 year old did what and who she wanted. Not terribly related to running a theater, and not terribly interesting.
John proved to be rude and condescending to the Fijians, as well as his landlord. He insulted the school and church on the island, and showed the movies half way through the local mass, saying, they're going to have to make a choice.
As a fan of documentaries, and the new infotainment from Michael Moore and others, I was looking forward to a good independent film. What we got was an unfortunate display of how Americans act away from home, and why so many people around the world don't like us.
One of the few DVD's we have ever turned off before finishing.
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