An Island Calling

By Peter Calder

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Director: Annie Goldson
Running time: 78 mins
Rating: Exempt
Screening: Academy
Herald Rating: * * * *
Verdict: A smart, engrossing dissection of the shocking 2001 murders of Fiji Red Cross boss John Scott and his partner

John Scott gained international media attention during the 2000 coup when, as the Director-General of the Fiji Red Cross, he braved George Speight's thugs to take medicine, food, books and letters to those held hostage in Parliament for 56 days.

And he became famous again in July the next year when he and his longtime partner, Greg Scrivener, were hacked to death in their Suva home in a frenzied attack born of religious hysteria.

Media coverage at the time hinted at political motives and, more darkly, at the couple's "depraved" lifestyle. The none-too-subtle implication was that they deserved what they got.

Goldson's brave, smart film - by turns angry and poignant - lays the former rumour to rest and, by exploring the sexual politics of the islands, shows how deeply embedded the latter assumptions are.

Fijian-born, New Zealand-educated Scott made his home in and gave loyal service to his native land, but Goldson's dissection makes it plain that he was not universally welcomed.

The film is cleverly framed as a voyage of discovery by Scott's English-based brother, Owen, who acts as the viewer's surrogate as the many layers of prejudice, both social and official, are painstakingly teased apart.

What emerges is a complicated but clearly articulated story of the toll colonialism, homophobia, evangelical Christianity and the tension between indigenous Fijians, Indians and "kai valagi" (white Fijians) have taken and continue to take on life in the islands.

A shorter cut of the film will screen on TV3 later in the year, but the theatrical version demands attention. It is another excellent piece of work from the director of Georgie Girl and Punitive Damage.

- NZ Herald

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