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View Askew Productions/Miramax Films

Official Site

Director: Steve James

Producers: Steve James, Scott Mosier

Cast: The Pierson Family


When I was lived in L.A. over the summer, one of the first functions I attended during the UT in LA program was the Radio, Television, and Film department’s annual Hollywood Showcase at the Director’s Guild. John Pierson was also in attendance, and spoke about how he bought a theatre in Fiji and showed movies of his choice there. Reel Paradise documents the experience of the Pierson family, who lived in Fiji for a year. Apparently, Pierson purchased the most remote movie theatre location on the planet—the 180 Meridian Theatre, where Pierson, with a background in funding/producing indie flicks, shows mainstream and first-run movies to the locals and natives.

The documentary itself demonstrates how the Piersons both ingratiate themselves and clash with the local culture. You see how running the only movie theatre in town affects the society. The local missionaries and the Catholic Church are not pleased with the competition for the attention of the citizens of Fiji. Pierson’s teenaged daughter Georgia takes to the locale easily and sees it as a chance to go buck wild. In somewhat of a bizarre moment Pierson plays basketball in front of the theatre with his daughter, who is brandishing what are clearly… hickeys. Actually, I found Georgia’s disrespect for her family and inappropriate behavior rather infuriating.

The seemingly over-arching sub-plot or conflict the filmmaker emphasizes here is when the family home is robbed of its technical necessities and the Piersons begin to suspect acquaintances and friends. Their Australian landlord never seems to be much help. In the end, it all seemed rather perfunctory and pointless, and a waste of build-up as well. It hurts what is already a rather lengthy show.

One of the more entertaining events in the doc is when two student filmmakers bring their shorts to show in the theatre. Unfortunately, the projector blows out, along with a replacement. In the end, they are forced to show the films on what appears to be a twenty-inch TV, giving a strong response to one short and a rather chilly one to the other.

The Meridian Theatre itself is nothing special: one small screen, a dilapidated building with worn seats, and a staff of projectionists whose showing up and threading the celluloid properly seem like small miracles. Regardless, the theatre seems full nearly every night a free movie is shown. It really all comes down to the joy of the shared experience that going to the movies provides to an audience. I think that was Pierson’s true mission in this endeavor.

—Jeffrey “The Vile One” Harris

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...

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