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
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
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.