Synopsis by Mark Deming
John Pierson is a passionate cinema enthusiast who has written books on maverick filmmakers (including the bestsellers Spike, Mike, Slackers & Dykes and Reel Paradise), co-created, produced, and hosted the Split Screen series on the Independent Film Channel network, and helped produce a number of independent films, including early works by Spike Lee, Michael Moore, and Richard Linklater. In February 2000, Pierson traveled to Fiji to shoot an episode of Split Screen, where in the tiny village of Taveuni he discovered a fully functioning movie theater. A year later, Pierson discovered that the owner was closing shop and moving to New Zealand. Fascinated by the prospect of showing movies in a remote community that was still edging its way into 20th century technology -- most homes have no electricity or telephones -- Pierson took over the business. Although the theater had shown American films since the fifties, many of the impoverished locals were unable to pay the admission prices - so Pierson waived the costs, thus enabling more natives to attend. He and his family stayed in Taveuni for a year, and his friend Steve James (himself a documentary filmmaker of note) brought a camera crew to Fiji to document the final month of Pierson's experiment. Reel Paradise shows the Taveunians reacting to everything from Steamboat Bill Jr. to Jackass: The Movie, Pierson and his family discussing the reactions of his patrons, the exhibitors' sometimes thorny relationship with Christian missionaries who question his influence on the community, and the cultural and economic divide between the Pierson family and the Fiji natives.
family-move, Fiji, film-producer, island, movie-theater