Reel Paradise

Rated R 2005

This documentary by Steve James (Hoop Dreams) chronicles the adventures of independent American cinema maven John Pierson and his family as they run the last movie house on a remote Fiji island for a year. For reasons never given in this movie, Pierson wanted to get away from it all, but the erstwhile discoverer of Spike Lee, Michael Moore, and (this film's executive producer) Kevin Smith packed an abrasive personality with him and thus finds no peace in this earthly paradise. It's more reality program than film-appreciation class, as the lanky, quarrelsome Pierson feuds with his landlord, wife, son, daughter, the island's Catholic establishment, and the Fiji islanders themselves. The latter seem to be endlessly patient and tolerant as this grating impresario chivvies them into his theater, where they're rewarded with Hollywood films on the level of Jackass. Evidently meant as a witty travelogue, Reel Paradise instead is a ruthless expose of Ugly Americanism. Bereft of cultural sensitivity or tact, Pierson's lone redeeming feature is his love for the movies.

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