Review: ‘The Land Has Eyes’

Fiji cinema makes its debut with work about moral and social issues faced by Pacific Island people that is told by an unmistakable storyteller, but is nonetheless short on effective drama. Hackneyed dramatization, acting and camerawork dampen pic's impact, limiting exposure to niche Pacific territories and TV outlets.

Fiji cinema makes its debut with “The Land Has Eyes,” a work about moral and social issues faced by Pacific Island people that is told by an unmistakable storyteller, but is nonetheless short on effective drama. Tyro Fiji writer-director (and vet playwright) Vilsoni Hereniko aims to show how the mystical origins of the people of Rotuma Island in the Fiji chain are shaken by a precocious teenage girl who summons up vengeful justice to put some nasty men in their place. But hackneyed dramatization, acting and camerawork dampen pic’s impact, limiting exposure to niche Pacific territories and TV outlets.

After local storyteller Hapati (Voi Fesaitu) tells his intelligent daughter Viki (Sapeta Taito) about the island’s legendary Warrior Woman (Rena Owen, of “Once Were Warriors”), he becomes center of pic’s story. Conflict between poorer Hapati and mean, money-hungry neighbor Koroa (Maniue Vilsoni) is elementary, with Viki’s odd behavioral streaks adding the only real interest. Mediocre mini-DV lensing robs stunning settings of their visual power. Pic’s aid from Rotterdam fest’s Hubert Bals Fund shows the multicultural, globe-hopping nature of the institution’s support.

The Land Has Eyes

Fiji

Production

A Te Maka Prods. and Pacific Islanders in Communications presentation in association with ORA Digital and Makai Motion Pictures. (International sales: Te Maka Prods., Honolulu; Makai Motion Pictures, San Francisco.) Produced by Jeannette Paulson Hereniko, Corey Tong, Vilsoni Hereniko. Executive producer, Merata Mita. Directed, written by Vilsoni Hereniko.

Crew

Camera (Monaco Lab color, DV, DV projection), Paul Atkins; editor, Jonathan Woodford-Robinson; music, Clive Cockburn; production-costume designer, Hupfeld Hoerder. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Native Forum), Jan. 16, 2004. (Also in Rotterdam Film Festival.) Rotuman, English dialogue. Running time: 88 MIN.

With

Sapeta Taito, Emily Erasito, Moriki Tigarea, Ritie Titofaga, Voi Fesaitu, Rena Owen, Maniue Vilsoni, John Fasiu Fatiaki, Sarote Fonmanu, Elisapeti Kafonika Inia, James Davenport, John Fatiaki.

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