Shot in Fiji
I had fun in an earlier post tracking down all the remakes of the movie Blue Lagoon, first shot on location in Fiji with teenager Jean Simmons. Recently I heard that Series 41 (!) of the game show Survivor is resuming filming in Fiji following post-Covid opening of the country to overseas visitors. Just how many movies, television shows and film shoots of all kinds happen in Fiji?
Sources differ but there are more than 30 full-length movies that used Fiji locations, including quite a number of Bollywood productions in Hindi. The five most popular (IMDB website) are the 1980 remake of Blue Lagoon with Brooke Shields, Fantasy Island (2020), Castaway (2000) starring Tom Hanks, Contact (1997) with Jodie Foster and Return to the Blue Lagoon in 1991.
But the earliest known film to be shot in Fiji was Robinson Crusoe in 1932, an action adventure/comedy about a yachtsman who bets his friends he can survive living on an uninhabited island for a year. This was Douglas Fairbanks' penultimate role and one of the few talkies he ever made.
After the success of Blue Lagoon (UK), His Majesty O’Keefe, starring Hollywood legend Burt Lancaster, cemented Fiji's reputation as a desirable tropical island location. It's no surprise that movies with themes of shipwreck and survival in a tropical paradise island predominate, but Contact (1997) bucked the cliches as an extra-terrestrial sci-fi drama.
To date, only one full-length feature film has been made by Fijians in an indigenous Fijian language (Rotuman). The Land Has Eyes (2004) is a coming of age story about a girl who feels stifled by the island culture. But she is inspired by tradition to seek revenge after a neighbour accuses her father of stealing. This film was nominated for the Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Film category.
Unlike movies, the range of topics explored by the many documentaries made in Fiji is impressively wide, from nature (National Geographic's Islands) to surfing (Pacific Pirates), the underwater world (Coral Reef Adventure) to traditional customs (Lost Island of the Firewalkers), rugby (Sevens from Heaven), biography (Serevi: Fiji's King of Sevens) and even a beauty contest (Miss South Pacific).
The first TV series shot in Fiji I can find is The Adventures of Seaspray which began in 1965. Widowed journalist Dan Wells sails the islands with his three children assisted by his Fijian crewman. Since those days of innocent family adventure, Fiji has been chosen for tougher adventure like Epic Trails (2017-). The islands also also host increasingly competitive game shows ranging from extreme sports to celebrity escapades, from Australian Survivor (2016-) to Bachelors in Paradise (2018-20).
One glaring absence among TV shows shot in Fiji is crime drama! With ready-made stories featuring charismatic Fijian detectives, why aren't producers competing to bring Joe Horseman and Susie Singh to the screen?
Apart from the stunning beauty and variety of 300 islands, Fiji has relatively good modern infrastructure for film units on location. As Survivor prepares for its 10th season, host Jeff Probost says,
"Fiji offers us everything that we want. Incredibly beautiful water that you can see down 30 feet, beaches that are amazing, a government that is working with us, local labour that loves to say ‘Bula!’ every day because they’re just happy you’re here. And our crew has never been as happy. We actually have decent accommodations to do this show out in the jungle. It’s a win-win-win.”
Fiji's government is serious about attracting film-makers, offering generous incentives. Here's a video made by Film Fiji to show the locations the islands can offer.
Please let me know if you can imagine Fiji Islands Mysteries as a TV series and any ideas you have. Better still, tell your friend the TV producer!
May you be blessed with feline friends,
Bernadette (B.M. Allsopp)