Reel Paradise | 2005
John Pierson is a noted independent film maven and author of the widely celebrated book "Spike, Mike, Slackers & Dykes," who together with his wife Janet created the IFC cable show "Split Screen." On one story for the show, John and his family went to Fiji in search of the 'world's most remote movie theater.' John fell in love with Fiji's 180 Meridian Cinema when he saw the wild enthusiasm of the audience to a showing of the Three Stooges' "Some More of Samoa"--a short they had been showing at the theater since it opened in 1954. John decided he wanted to move with his family to Fiji and observe what movies meant to a country on the other side of the world. He also saw this adventure as a great opportunity to introduce his two kids, Georgia (16) and Wyatt (13), into a culture and lifestyle far different from that of their home in the New York City suburbs. The rural island of Taveuni is not one of Fiji's prime tourist destinations; its people struggle to eke out a subsistence living as farmers, fisherman, and merchants. To the local Fijians, the Piersons were thought to be millionaires, because they were able to live in a large colonial home and show movies for free. John carries on the theater's tradition of showing a wide range of American, British and Hindi films. The profound difference now is John's ability to show the movies for free due to contributions from several independent filmmakers he had helped in the past. For many in Taveuni, going to movies had been impossibly expensive before the Piersons arrived. Now, the 180 Meridian Cinema becomes the focal point of entertainment on the island with frequently packed houses. John is able to secure many of the most current popular and blockbuster releases from America and abroad. Because the Piersons are neither tourists nor permanent residents of Taveuni, their year in Fiji proves to be a complicated experience. They from strong friendships with locals like their cook Sia, and come to understand how third world islanders cope with day-to-day life. But they also experience culture clash and learn firsthand the realities of being "haves" in a culture of "have-notes." When their home is robbed while they are out showing a movie, it marks the second serious robbery since they've been in Fuji, and raises anew questions about whom they can trust or not trust. Their paranoia extends to their landlord Andrew, who has been a yearlong thorn in the side of the Pierson family. When Andrew insensitively presents the Pierson's with a fuel bill the night of the second robbery, it strikes another blow against the notion that living here can be some kind of paradise.