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Reel Paradise (R)

Release Date: August 17th, 2005 (NYC- IFC Center) by Wellspring.
Directed by Steve James.

BASIC PREMISE: A documentary about John Pierson, a film/tv producer, who spreads his love of cinema with his wife and kids in Fiji for one year.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: This is the kind of movie that anyone who appreciates the art of cinema will thoroughly enjoy. When John opens the Meridian Theater on the island of Tavueni in Fiji, he surprises everyone by letting them see the movies for free. To bring the American culture to a more down-to-earth culture seems like a daunting task at first, but soon it is easy to entertain everyone on the island—old and young. He plays movies like X-Men 2, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and Bringing Down the House. He even has the nerve to show Jackass: The Movie, which obviously many parents refuse to sit through---but their kids get a big kick out of it. It would have been interesting and appropriate if John were to show the film The Gods Must Be Crazy—a film that combines culture clash with a lot of humor. Not every screening succeeds: a film festival of short, independent student films leads to a lot of walkouts. There is even a little mystery/suspense when the Pierson home is burglarized on the same night that their landlord is drunk. The culture clash continues as John’s 16 year-old daughter hangs out with a boy from the island. The fact that she can snap back at her parents is very different from the respect and obedience that the children on the island give to their parents. The cinematography and scenery are just as beautiful as one would expect—lots of vibrant, lively colors. The island people are also lively—but the most exciting moments for them are when they watch the movies together at the Meridian Cinema.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: It is inspiring to watch John Pierson devote an entire year on the island just to make people happy. His mission is rewarding in more ways than one. His relationship with his family becomes stronger as he learns a lot about them. He also argues with them but it does not become a violent fight like it usually does between husbands and wives on the island. All of his family learns valuable lessons about culture that they will be able to take with them for the rest of their life. It is a sad fact that the Meridian Cinema is now closed because it opened up a whole new world for the people of Tavueni. Likewise, Pierson’s and his family also experienced a whole new world that is much more simple and humble than the average American lifestyle. Such a mutual change is ultimately very satisfying.



THE BOTTOM LINE: A “reel” pleasure to watch from start to finish. True lovers of cinema and culture will “reely” relate to this very thoroughly entertaining, lively and inspiring documentary.

RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)

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