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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, February 25, 2006

Pacific films screen in conjunction with art academy exhibit

Advertiser Staff

"Reel Paradise," a documentary about an American family who run a theater on a Fijian island, opens the Life in the Pacific Film Series.

Amy C. Elliott

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The Doris Duke Theatre



"Reel Paradise": 7:30 p.m. tonight-Monday and 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday

"Velvet Dreams" and "New Oceania": 1 and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday

"Haka-Rongo (To Listen)," "Tama T?" and "The Land Has Eyes": 1 and 7:30 p.m. Thursday

"Matto Saina-Ta As Hurao," "Polynesian Power," and "Big Waves & Tall Tales": 1, 4 and 7:30 p.m. Friday

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To coincide with the Honolulu Academy of Arts' new exhibition "Life in the Pacific: The Cook/Forster Collection of the George August University of Gottingen," the Doris Duke Theatre is hosting the Life in the Pacific Film Series, from Wednesday to Friday.

The lineup of nine short and feature films representing Hawai'i, Aotearoa, Fiji, Guam, Rapa Nui and Samoa proves there's more to Pacific cinema than "The Whale Rider."

Kicking off the series is the documentary "Reel Paradise," by filmmaker Steve James, who won an Academy Award for the basketball diary "Hoop Dreams" in 1995. This time James' subject is the Piersons, an American family who spend a year on Taveuni, Fiji, running a small theater. The father, John Pierson, is an indie-film-industry insider and he brings everything from Buster Keaton's "Steamboat Bill, Jr." (a hit) to "Jackass" (the biggest hit) to the island. James catches up with the Piersons in the last month of their Pacific project and he captures more than a wacky experiment. Life on Taveuni means contending with dengue fever, burglaries, no power grid and disgruntled Catholic priests.

Also on the schedule is "New Oceania," a documentary that focuses on eminent Samoan writer Albert Wendt, who is a visiting professor in the University of Hawai'i's English Department and whose play "The Songmaker's Chair" takes to Kumu Kahua's stage next month. The film looks at the history of cultural renewal in the Pacific and New Zealand's explosion of creative activity by Pacific artists inspired by Wendt.

Vilsoni Hereniko's "The Land Has Eyes," shot on the lush Fijian island of Rotuma, is a fable-like film about a girl who redeems her family's name by revealing the secrets of her island's elite.

Big-wave surfer Grant Washburn's "Big Waves & Tall Tales" makes its Hawai'i premiere at the festival. The documentary chronicles the gnarly surf exploits of such riders as John Raymond, Doug Young and Jeff Clark.