Fiji has made its first ever attempt to win an Academy Award by submitting TheLand Has Eyes for the best foreign-language film category.
In order to qualify,Australian-based distributor Ronin Films opened the film at the only multiplexin the Fijian capital of Suva on September 8, where it took a respectable $13,600(Fiji$23,000) from one 200-seat cinema in its first week. It was officiallysubmitted by the Fiji Audio Visual Commission (FAVC), which funded half thecost of the transfer from digital to 35mm.
While a number of films havebeen shot in Fiji, this is the first made by Fijians that has achieved theatricalrelease. Writer-director Vilsoni Hereniko loosely based the story on hischildhood on the island of Rotuma. Rena Owen is one of the only two professionalactors.
"Both countries have bigFijian communities and we hope to draw them out for this film," said Ronin'sAndrew Pike of the November 10 New Zealand release and the Australian launch one or two weekslater. He has rights to Oceania. "It is doing fabulously well in Fiji for an indigenous production made on a shoestringand it will later move from Suva tothe country's only other mainstream cinema."
Pike is negotiating with USdistributors on behalf of producer Jeannette Paulson Hereniko, foundingdirector of the Hawaii International Film Festival. The FAVC will represent thefilm at the AFM.
Meanwhile, Tsai Ming-liang'sThe Wayward Cloud has been chosen as Taiwan's official Oscar submission. Tsai's Goodbye,Dragon Inn was submitted for the 76th edition of the AcademyAwards in 2004.
Taiwan's Government Information Office (GIO), which subsidised the film'sproduction to the tune of $300,000, cleared the controversial film uncut fortheatrical release in March this year. It grossed over $300,000 in the capitaland is estimated to have crossed $1m nationwide, making it the highest-grossinglocal film this year to date.
After winning a Silver Bearfor oustanding artistic contribution at Berlin, the director received a $300,000 reward from Kaohsiung City,part of a scheme to encourage filmmaking in the southern city. If Tsai wins atthe Academy Awards, he is eligible for the government's recently announced $3mbounty for local directors who take major prizes at the world's topinternational film events.
Stephen Cremin in Taipeicontributed to this article.