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by Swen Thissen, staff writer

The story takes places in Rotuma, a nine-mile-by-two-mile island 300 miles from Fiji. Despite having its own language, history, and culture, Rotuma is nevertheless a part of Fiji. The main character is a Rotuman girl, Viki, performed by Sapeto Taito. Her family is poor and struggles to survive.
Inspired by her father, and his tales of determination in the face of hardship, Viki studies hard in school to get a scholarship to go to Fiji.

Her favorite tale is about a Warrior Woman, Rotuma’s first inhabitant, who was abandoned on the island by her seven brothers after the oldest brother raped her. Alone on the island, the Warrior Woman not only struggled for her own survival but for her child’s. Rotuma’s people today look upon her as the founder of their tribe.

Viki has to be as strong as the Warrior Woman. Life is hard on the small island: school is exhausting, the family doesn’t have enough money, and their neighbor wants the family to move away because he intends to build Rotuma’s first two -story house.

The neighbor accuses Viki’s father of being a thief. He is wrongly found guilty and later dies. But Viki still wants to go to Fiji. And she remembers her father’s tale with the question: “What would the Warrior Woman do?”

Hereniko explained that the story has lots of parallels with his own life. The movie was a chance, he said, “to revisit my childhood. It is a story that only I can tell. My father was accused of stealing and he died when I was 14, and I got a scholarship too,” Hereniko said. “The movie is inspired by events that happened to me or to my family,” he added, explaining that to avoid letting it become autobiography, he changed the leading character to a girl.

“ The Land Has Eyes wasn’t easy to produce,” Hereniko said. “Nobody on (Rotuma) had ever made a movie. Almost all actors are Rotumans though. There were many people who laughed at me and said that I couldn’t finish it.”

Ultimately Viki’s father was exonerated, and Viki won her scholarship and left Rotuma for Fiji. In the process of telling the story of this Warrior Woman, Hereniko produced a movie that not only reveals a lot about his own personality, but also shows how the Rotumans live, how they stand up for their culture, and how values, such as honor, are important to them. At the end, viewers know why the title of the film is a maxim of Rotuman culture: “The land has eyes, the land has teeth, and knows the truth.”

Vilsoni Hereniko was born in Mea, Hapmak, Itu’ti’u District, Oct. 13, 1954. The youngest of 11 children, Hereniko received his schooling in Rotuma before winning a scholarship to complete his secondary education in Fiji. From there he went to the University of the South Pacific where he graduated with a Certificate in Education. Today Hereniko lives in Hawai‘i.

The Land has Eyes was made on a $1 million budget on location in Rotuma. Its world premiere took place at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2004. Later, the film was presented at different festivals and won a number of awards including: Best Dramatic Feature Film at the Imagine Native Film & Media Arts Festival in Toronto, in October 2004.



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