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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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I've been on a documentary jag recently and I've seen a lot of them, across a wide range of production value and personal interest.
I ran across REEL PARADISE and found it REEL HARD TO WATCH. Like sitting next to a really annoying family at a restaurant, I found myself listening in on the conversation and being oddly fascinated with the inanity but ultimately wondering why I wasted my time.
You know the gist of the story--indie film guy takes his family to Fiji to show free movies at the local theater. You might think there'd be much to discuss about whether it's a good idea to bring American film into rural Fijian culture in this way, but the way they went about it is so obviously wrong-headed that it isn't discussable at all.
OK, it's one thing for the Pierson family (including two of the most poorly parented teens you can imagine) to be self-absorbed while immersed in a meaningless project in Fiji. It's another thing to shoot a documentary on it. Perhaps that's where it should have ended. But to have edited the footage and released this to the world is the height of self-absorption on the part of the filmmakers.
I see no redeeming qualities in the people, the project, nor the film.
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