Everything I have been able to find on movies about the Pacific islands is summarized in this Overview page. My search is limited to movies that have something meaningful to say about the history and culture of the place. Information about the movie stars and their romantic adventures can be found more adequately in Wikipedia. The unique feature of this site is in the effort to construct a model of world history from what the Hollywood lens has reported – or not reported. My method here has been to contrast the Hollywood perspective with the actual experience of visiting the places under discussion.

 

The Pacific: Oceania

Site of the Battle of Nu'uanu, 1795

Site of the Battle of Nu’uanu, 1795

From the Caravan Journals: In June 2014, I was in Honolulu to do my last few circus shows. My days as a traveling showman were over, and in that same month I set my sights on building this website. My good friend Wanda, gave me the invaluable gift of her time to help me recalibrate my ambitions.

Wanda lived on the hillside above the city, under the high promontory of Nuʻuanu Pali (say New–ooo–ah–new. Pali means cliff). Nuʻuanu was the scene of the terrible battle where King Kamehameha, (say Ka-may-ha-may-ha) from the Big Island, conquered this island and thereby set in motion the amalgamation of all of the Hawaiian isles into one nation. He drove hundreds of O’ahu defenders over the cliffs to their deaths, forsaking any claim to peaceful unification. This was in 1795, about 16 years after Captain James Cook brought European influence to Hawaiian shores. He died in pursuit of his mission on the Big Island in 1779.

Over the opening years of the new millennium, we did shows at most of the major harbors on the larger islands. Our schedule was light, affording me the opportunity to study much of what an outsider can know of the history and culture of these islands. Hawaii was our jumping off place for explorations of the Polynesian Triangle.

On a 2004 sea voyage across the South Pacific, from Tahiti to the Marquesas, I brought along a favorite book of my youth and read it again in my old age. Called The Far Lands, by James Norman Hall (1950), it is the legendary tale of the earliest canoe voyages from the South Pacific to Hawaii, a distance of almost 3000 miles. The only movie treatment of the Pacific migration was in the overture to James Michener’s Hawaii, and it was off the beam.

The list of European seafarers who mapped the islands of the Pacific begins with Magellan in the 15th century, but it was Captain James Cook of England who achieved fame for his systematic survey of the entire region, including Hawaii, where he met his death in 1779.  Oddly, there is no movie about Captain Cook, who greatly resembled his contemporary, George Washington.  Both men were perhaps too straight-laced and scandal-free to make them prime subjects for the Hollywood dream machine. A more colorfully flawed character was found in William Bligh, who served as an officer on Cook’s last voyage in the Pacific and witnessed his death in Hawaii. He went on to captain the HMS Bounty on its voyage to Tahiti and would suffer the indignity of the world’s most famous mutiny at sea.

Beneath the oppressive activity of the white sails, the fragile and superbly scenic islands of Polynesia struggled to maintain their integrity.  The centerpiece of the southern constellation of islands is Tahiti. Though it is only one island, the name is generally used to denote the group of Society Islands.  These are fabled isles in Polynesian mythology and among the first to be found by European sailing ships.  The remoteness and multiplicity of these islands protected them from significant invasion during World War II, but the siege of cruise ships has succeeded where the Japanese and Americans failed. There may be no other part of the world that is so burdened by imaginative agendas imposed on it by those who have come from afar.

The term for the entire island world of the Pacific, including the Western Islands of Melanesia and Micronesia, is Oceania.

For a full list of movies viewed for this website, go to Movie Archive, above.