Reel Paradise (2005)

DVD Cover (Wellspring Media)
Add to Collection
Sign up to add this to your collection
Add to Favorites
Sign up to add this to your favorites
Overall Rating 64%
Overall Rating
Ranked #4,764
...out of 7,141 movies
Check In? Sign up to check in!

During the final month of their year-long stay in Fiji, indie-film gurus John and Janet Pierson and their two children host a documentary film crew. John's been showing free movies at the 288-seat 180 Meridian Cinema, in remote Natokalan Village on the island of Taveuni. Reality intrudes in paradise: their home is burgled, the local Catholic priest criticizes John's project, their daughter's behavior may be threatening the reputation of her friend, and John's prickly personality follows him. Against this backdrop, the Fijians laugh at the Three Stooges, Buster Keaton, and "Jackass: The Movie." John finishes the year with ten movies in ten days: do movies matter? --IMDb
Georgia Pierson
Georgia Pierson
Janet Pierson
Janet Pierson
John Pierson
John Pierson
Wyatt Pierson
Wyatt Pierson
Review by bluemeanie
Added: September 26, 2005
Steve James is probably the most celebrated documentary filmmaker since Michael Moore. Alongside Moore, Errol Morris, Werner Herzog, and Joe Berlinger, he is probably one of the best around. He is certainly responsible for quite possibly the greatest documentary of all-time, "Hoop Dreams", which also happens to be one of the best reviewed motion pictures since the invention of the film critic. He has this way of bringing both humanity and empathy to all his characters, and he manages to capture those little moments in life that seem so inconsequential at the time, but mean much, much more. "Reel Paradise" is a film I enjoyed more than "Hoop Dreams". It was hilarious, inspiring, emotionally challenging, and one of the best movie going experiences I have had all year long. Steve James brought me into this film. He took me to Fiji and made me experiences these things firsthand, as if I actually had been there. Very few filmmakers have that ability. The last time I felt this good about a documentary was when I saw "Riding Giants" last year. "Reel Paradise" eclipses that film by leaps and bounds. This was, by far, the best film I saw at this year's festival. It is a real cinematic treat, and will certainly go on to great critical success.

This documentary follows John Pierson and his family through a month in their lives on a remote and secluded island on Fiji. If you don't know John Pierson, he was responsible for the careers of directors like Spike Lee, Kevin Smith, and Michael Moore. He is one of the most respected and accomplished producers in the business, and also one of the most human. While filming his series for the IFC, he had the idea to move his family to Fiji and, for one year, open up an old movie house, the 180 Meridian Cinema, to Fijian audiences. The catch -- all of the movies were free. This film chronicles the last month the Pierson family spends on the island. We see John running this theatre as if it were his life's passion. He truly loves what he is doing, and he appreciates the power that cinema has on human beings. His wife, Janet, was skeptical in the beginning, but comes to love Fiji and all of its people. Their children, Wyatt and Georgia, find little difficulty fitting in, especially Wyatt, who steals the film as one of the most insightful and logical adolescents I have seen in quite a while. "Reel Paradise" is really John Pierson's love song to motion pictures, as he shows the Fijian people everything from "X-Men" to Buster Keaton. The joy on the faces of the people who would never normally step foot inside a movie theatre is what keeps him going, and it keeps us going through all two hours of this miraculous motion picture experience.

This film leaves no stone unturned. Steve James hits on every single aspect of the Pierson experience. We see the impact of a robbery on the family, with Janet desperately wanting to know who stole their belongings, just for the solace. We see how these Americans have affected the lives of villagers, in both positive and negative ways. We see how Georgia really has been a somewhat negative influence on her friends Mariama, while Wyatt seems to have been nothing but a positive influence on all of his friends. We see how John gets so caught up in the cinematic turbulence of his odyssey, that he fails to realize the kind of impact a film like "Jackass: The Movie" could have on such impressionable young people. My favorite scenes in the film come from the most unexpected places. When the Piersons are robbed, their landlord -- whom they suspect to be the person who robbed them -- drops by for a visit, sparking some intense dialogue between he and John. Obviously unscripted and largely unplanned, the film crew handles the situation very professionally, even when a local swears to bathe in the blood of the man. This scene shows the stark reality of the culture where the Piersons are visiting. The most devastating part of the film comes when we start to fully realize how the Pierson's leaving will impact the community. At the end, we learn that the 180 Meridian Cinema shut down after they left and that it will likely never again re-open.

I really cannot think of anything negative to say about this motion picture. I felt like I knew this family, and I felt like their adventure was my own. John Pierson is a modern day superhero if there ever was one. Just sit back and think of how much this man must love movies to pack up his family and move them thousands of miles away, just to run a movie theatre for a year. That is dedication. That is love. Throughout all of their adventures in Fiji, we never once lose sight of the simple and unyielding fact that they are just a normal family. Sure, they have their eccentricities and I doubt either John or Janet will be winning Parent of the Year honors, but they are, essentially, a normal American family thrust into an unusual situation. "Reel Paradise" is as inspiring as movies get, and this was a perfect film festival entry, in that it re-affirmed the love of film that everyone at the festival has. "Reel Paradise" reintroduced the name Steve James back into the common movie goers vernacular. Most remember "Hoop Dreams". Very few remember the immense talent responsible. "Reel Paradise" was one of the best motion pictures I have seen all year long, and I recommend it to everyone in a love affair with cinema.

Sign up to add your comment. Sign up to add your comment.
Recommended Movies
Layout, reviews and code © 2000-2020 | Privacy Policy
Join us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Review Updates