Steve James’ Fiji doc “Reel Paradise” in world premiere at Sundance Film Festival

Steve James’ new documentary “Reel Paradise” has its world premiere in the 21st Sundance Film Festival, which runs Jan. 20-30 in Park City, Utah.

“Reel Paradise” will premiere in Sundance’s Special Screenings section, “a selection of special films that are shown out of competition, and which significantly expand the range of subjects presented at the Festival,” according to festival publicity materials.

The film is one of 86 world premieres among 120 features screening at Sundance, down from 140 features last year. Submissions were up, from 2,485 for the 2004 fest, to 2,613 for 2005.

Producers rep John Pierson spent a year running a Fiji movie house in “Reel Paradise.”

In Reel Paradise, James showcases the last month in the year that legendary producer’s rep John Pierson spent running the 180 Meridian Cinema on the remote South Pacific island of Taveuni in Fiji.

“The notion that someone so involved in media culture in America would uproot his family and go to Fiji to live for a year while they ran a movie theater was pretty intriguing,” James told IndieWIRE.

James and Pierson go back ten years, to when Pierson helped James and his Kartemquin cohorts launch their classic doc “Hoop Dreams,” which John Iltis and David Sikich sold to Fine Line Features.

Executive producers Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier of View Askew financed “Reel Paradise’s” $450,000 budget through their Miramax deal. Pierson was instrumental in selling Smith’s breakout comedy “Clerks” to Miramax at Sundance 1994.

James shot “Reel Paradise” in Summer 2003 on Beta SP with DP P.H. O’Brien, line producer Geeda Sete and sound mixer Rich Pooler.

An Oak Park resident, James directed the 2003 Sundance selection and Lions Gate release “Stevie,” and was executive producer and one director of Kartemquin’s 2004 PBS series “The New Americans.”

In other Sundance news, Steve Buscemi’s InDigEnt production “Lonesome Jim,” which shot last winter in Goshen and Ligonier, Indiana, outside South Bend, is one of 16 films in the festival’s Dramatic Competition. “Lonesome Jim” stars Casey Affleck and Liv Tyler. Chicago crew included gaffer Bill Frye, and soundmen Mario Coletta and Karl Dondlinger.

– by Ed M. Koziarski,