- The Land Has Eyes: Pear ta ma 'on maf
The phrase "Pear ta ma 'on maf" is taken from an ancient Rotuman proverb that translates as "The land has eyes and teeth and knows the truth," and extols the virtues and reliability of justice, indigenous style. This belief is ultimately based on a holistic relationship with the land as provider andcaregiver of its human dependents. It is a belief central to Vilsoni Hereniko's feature ﬁlm, The Land Has Eyes, shaping the thoughts and actions of Viki, a Rotuman schoolgirl (played by newcomer Sapeta Taito), its main character and the ﬁlm's centrifugal force.
Indeed, Viki and the land are intimately connected, as her eyes come to represent the land's eyes and symbolize an ancient watching, one that the land supernaturally follows through with action. Viewers follow Viki's lifeas she embraces the stories of Rotuma's past told by her father, whoquietly resists colonial religion and its other ideological inﬂuences. Clearly she is her father's daughter, rather than her conformist mother's. This underlying tension between traditional and Western inﬂuences is emphasized when the central crisis of the ﬁlm arises: her father is falsely accused (and convicted) of stealing by his greedy and corrupt neighbor. Viki then acts to clear the name of her beloved father and restore her family's reputation.
She represents the new generation of Paciﬁc Islander who is able to bridge two often conﬂicting worlds: one represented by traditional island-based wisdoms and ways of doing things (she would rather listen to her father's stories of Rotuma than attend what she views as a hypocritical church); and the other represented by the Western world of knowledge (as astudent she is a contending for a scholarship and, with her father's support—also demonstrating an ongoing negotiation with the West—fervently pursues the individualistic pursuits of higher education). The inner strength and resolution she needs to ﬁght corrupt Rotuman ofﬁcials and face paternalistic colonial authorities is "unearthed" from Rotuma's principal myth, passed on to her by her father. The story of Tafate'masian (played by Rena Owen) is one of a wronged woman who found the courage and fortitude within herself and in her relationship with the land to become Rotuma's warrior woman and founding [End Page 306] ancestor. It is her story that Viki draws on during the most daunting of times, through visions and ﬂashbacks of the warrior woman ﬁlmed in surreal, blurred, slow motion. She becomes a source of comfort and strength that Viki needs to face the resistance to her difference, from within and outside of her family.
Since the movie's world premiere atthe Sundance Film Festival in 2004,most reviews have duly acknowledged the signiﬁcance of this ﬁlm as a ﬁrst voicing—and hailed it as Fiji's ﬁrst feature ﬁlm, the ﬁrst written and directed by a Rotuman, about Rotuma, set in Rotuma, with Rotuma-based Rotumans speaking the Rotuman language! Undeniably such ﬁrst voicings are of tremendous importance, culturally and politically as well as creatively. Both personally (as a longstanding playwright), and professionally (as a university lecturer and now professor), Hereniko is well known throughout the Paciﬁc for advocating the need for indigenous tongues to tell their own stories. His venture into dramatic feature ﬁlm waspreceded by a documentary, The Han Maneak Su in a Rouman Wedding (1989) and a short ﬁlm, Just Dancing (1998). Both have screened internationally. His winning of the Hubert Bals Fund for the screenplay of Land cemented its destiny as a bona ﬁde feature ﬁlm. Who better qualiﬁed, equipped, and skilled for the task?
But the ﬁlm provokes one particular question for...