BY JEFF HANSON, CONTRIBUTOR

It is never a bad idea for an indie film icon and his family to get away from it all for a while, find what could possibly be the most remote movie theater in the world, and screen free movies for the locals. At least that's what former Split Screen host John Pierson, his wife Janet, and their children Georgia and Wyatt thought. So the four spent a year doing just that on a small island in Fiji. Seasoned documentarian Steve James (Hoop Dreams, Stevie) joined the family for the last month of their stay to see just how good this idea really was. The result is a delightful look at family, film, and the clash and concord of two cultures. After a recent screening, James and the Pierson family joined in an insightful Q&A.

Did you show any films throughout your year that were culturally relevant?

John: More culturally relevant than Buster Keaton? There were 75 in the span of time and there was a pretty wide range. Because Fiji was a British Colony, there were a lot of British colonial films as well. But I'm not apologizing for showing Jackass...

Can you talk about the trepidation you must feel about baring the most intimate details of your family life to strangers through this film?

Janet: I had a lot of thoughts about it before it actually happened. We knew it was a great experience and we really wanted to share that. We didn't necessarily expect the attention to be on us so much that wasn't really our decision, it was Steve's but we have an enormous respect for a number of great documentaries and we've been involved in this all of our life. It was so great, how could we not be a part of tradition in a way and kind of give ourselves over to it?

Wyatt: I didn't think anyone was going to want watch it, so I really didn't care.

John: I thought having the fever was pretty awful, but being a documentary subject is ten times worse, even with an extremely talented gentleman like Steve James holding your lives in his hands.

Steve: I also want to say it is a testament to them as subjects as a family that they were as candid and open once this leap was taken. It's not an easy thing to do for any subject in documentaries. And I think in some ways it's a bigger challenge for people who are savvy about film, and have a better sense of what making that step means as subjects, so I think the fact that they did that, in light of knowing better, was pretty great.

How did you approached adopting a storyline, interviewing your subjects, and editing?

Steve: I think I'm the world's laziest documentary filmmaker. I do preparation and try to go into any film project with an idea about what the film can be about, and what interests me and what would interest an audience, and this film was no exception in that regard. But I really do believe what's important as an experience in making films like this, or any documentary, is that you go in extremely open to wherever the story is going to take you. Going in, I didn't know that this story would focus as much on the family as it did ...You have to understand and remember that this film was shot during their last month in Fiji. So in some ways the film, for good or for bad or neither, is a captive of that month that I was there. As much as we tried to sketch in the experience that they had through interviews and to look at some of those issues of showing movies in Fiji, the film is dictated for me by what happened in that month and it was a very full month.

John: One thing we all agreed on instantly amidst the more than 120 hours of footage was that every single minute featuring Andrew the landlord would have to be in the finished film.

Steve: And I think he's going to be the sequel.

Any plans for a sequel?

John: Give us an idea. Some of us might go.

How did the Fijians react to the camera following them around. Did you run into any problems?

Steve: They were terrifically open with us. I attribute that pretty much completely to the fact that the Pierson's had been there for a year and had become a part of that community. If we were okay with the Pierson's, we were going to be okay with them. I think that's what was crucial.

Georgia: They made fun of [the cameras]. It was really different. When the cameras weren't there they hung out a lot more, and there weren't [night] lights in front of us either.

Steve: We saw some of that in the footage too. That's why I put that one little piece in, the piece where Gopal, [the husband of the Pierson's cook,] goes home and says "they want us to do what we normally do". He's referencing us and there were a lot of moments like that in the footage. I didn't put them all in but we tried to suggest it at least a little bit.

Wyatt, do you still hate independent cinema?

Wyatt: Yes.

John, ever think about having a special private screening for your Catholic friends of Dogma?

John: I have got to tell you again that [the Church's] objections by and large were not really about specific content of films, partly because there was a lot of confusion about what the themes and meanings of films really were. You see 8 Mile and you see that it might be a content issue... But I'm going to segue off of your question into a further "thank you" to Kevin Smith - since you brought up Dogma. Not just for getting this film made, but for getting the whole project up and enabling us as a family to go and take over this theater and do the year there. It was Kevin and all the guys from The Blair Witch Project and Matt Stone from South Park who really provided the seed money that got the entire project going in the first place, and then Kevin of course - way above and beyond the call of duty - kept going with this movie as well. I kept asking him "What movie of yours do you think we should show there?" We could never quite figure it out, but now that you brought it up, when the man with the keys goes back, I highly recommend you start with Dogma.

Will you screen this in Fiji?

Wyatt: Bad idea.

John: There are two Fijians in the audience [tonight] that we know, that are a part of our family, Kenny and Dan, and I was of course extremely curious to know their impressions. It's not a tourist bureau portion of the country, obviously. So the question is, how did it feel to them? Can I show this in Fiji?

Kenny: We'll go with you!

John: And Dan?

Dan: It's fine. Just warn people in advance.

Of all the films you showed, what was the biggest flop and why?

Wyatt: Apocalypse Now Redux. It was too long.

John: I called the other day before we were coming here. I figured somebody might want an update on this or that, and learned the following: At the school and church, they were really, really disappointed that there would be nothing to do this weekend without the free movies. And I said, "If we there was, what would you want to see?" And they said, "That Vin Diesel film." I said, "Which Vin Diesel film hasn't got there yet?" "The Chronicles of Riddick." So, again, the man with the keys? You might want to fill in that gap later on as well.

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