Vili Hereniko exploded on the international scene in 2004 when his full-length feature film The Land has Eyes, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. (It was also Fiji's official submission to the 2006 Academy Awards). Here is a brief synopsis along with reviews.
The Plot: Viki, a beautiful and sensitive young South Pacific girl, listens intently to her father, Hapati, a storyteller. His tale is about seven brothers and their sister on a voyaging canoe. The eldest brother commits an unforgivable act; later on the brothers abandon their sister on a remote island called Rotuma. Struggling to survive, the sister discovers inner strength and survives a difficult birth. Through hard work and determination, she becomes known to later generations of Rotumans as their first inhabitant and their Warrior Woman.
Viki plants a tropical flower garden, which becomes her safe haven when she is teased or misunderstood.
On an island that demands hard physical work instead of intellectual and artistic pursuits, Hapati encourages his daughter to develop her scholastic abilities; he also nurtures her questioning, probing nature. In return Viki adores her Father. When Hapati is wrongly accused of stealing coconuts by their wealthy neighbor, Koroa, who has just returned from Australia, Viki despairs. Meanwhile, Koroa schemes to force his neighbor Hapati and his family to move away while he builds the first double-story house on the island. And Koroa doesn’t want his son Noa idolizing the clever girl next door.
Koroa bribes the dishonest court interpreter, Poto, with a pig. Poto lies about Hapati’s answers in a court case before the British judge who cannot understand or speak Rotuman. Since Hapati doesn’t speak English either, he is not aware of the misinterpretation. But Viki has hid under the court window and has overheard the deliberate mistranslation. When she tells her Father what has happened, Hapati repeats to her the ancient Rotuman belief that the land itself is vigilant and will eventually avenge any wrongdoing.
Stressed out and working excessively hard so he can sell enough copra to pay the court fine, Hapati becomes ill and dies. Viki now understands the Warrior Woman’s feeling of abandonment. She, like the mythical first inhabitant of Rotuma, enters into a surreal realm temporarily before coming to terms with the fact she must face her destiny alone. Or maybe not, as her father’s spirit lives on through his story of the Warrior Woman, Viki’s role model and mentor.
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