In 1985, former film projectionist and programmer John Pierson signed up as an investor and "producer's representative" for a movie called She's Gotta Have It and, in the process, wrote a new chapter in the financing and distribution of American independent films. Over the next two decades, Pierson would continue to serve as one of the good soldiers of moviemaking, aiding and abetting the careers of Jim Jarmusch, Richard Linklater, Michael Moore and Kevin Smith, among many others. Then, in 2002, he packed it all in to move (with family in tow) to the Fijian island of Taveuni and become the proprietor of "the world's most remote cinema," showing movies to the island's mostly indigenous population, for free, for a period of one year. The final month of Pierson's quixotic quest is chronicled by documentary filmmaker Steve James (Hoop Dreams, Stevie) in Reel Paradise and the result is an enormously warm, comic travelogue about how you can go to the ends of the earth and still not escape from temperamental teenagers, absentee landlords and the universal language of moving pictures. The fare Pierson programmed at the 180 Meridian Cinema so named for its longitudinal positioning was of a decidedly Hollywood bent, but there's nevertheless something magical about seeing a packed house of 300 Taveuni locals laugh equally uproariously, and, without a nanosecond's worth of culture shock, at Queen Latifah in Bringing Down the House and Buster Keaton in Steamboat Bill, Jr. For the Piersons themselves, the adjustment to island life isn't as smooth there are contretemps with Christian missionaries and "bone-breaking" tropical maladies but when it's finally time to leave, they've made the place a home and maybe broadened a few minds. In capturing it all, James might have made a puff piece about big-hearted Americans patronizing wide-eyed natives; instead, he's made a movie that restores your faith in movies, and in people. (Nuart) (Scott Foundas)

More Press...