Tiki Oasis 18 has chosen South Seas Cinema as its theme and will host a number of symposiums on the topic during its five-day event that kicks off Wednesday.
Tiki Oasis boasts that it is the biggest tiki weekender on the planet. The annual event began in 2001 and was initially held in Palm Springs, California, but now calls San Diego its home. Each year has a carefully planned theme and this year it is South Seas Cinema.
Ed Rampell co-authored the book “The Hawaii Movie and Television Book” (which just received a third edition printing). He fell in love with South Seas Cinema because of Juanita Hall as Bloody Mary singing “Bali Ha’i” in the 1958 film “South Pacific.”
“I remember Bloody Mary singing about ‘your own special island, where the sky meets the sea.’ This was the first movie I ever saw and when I watched it as a little boy I said: ‘When I grow up I’m going to go over there; have Islander girlfriends; and get involved in the movies.’ That’s exactly what I did — as soon as I graduated from college majoring in cinema I went to Tahiti and spent 23 years in Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia.”
Rampell said the element that distinguishes South Seas Cinema is its depiction of paradise on earth.
He pointed to the silent films “Tabu” and “Moana of the South Seas” as early examples of the genre. He will be discussing all four of the “Mutiny on the Bounty” films in his Friday Tiki Oasis Symposium: the Clark Gable 1935 film, Marlon Brando’s 1962 one, the more recent Mel Gibson 1984 adaptation as well as the lesser known Errol Flynn film “In the Wake of the Bounty.”
Other notable examples of the genre are “Hurricane” with the sarong boy and girl Jon Hall and Dorothy Lamour as well as 1942’s “Song of the Islands” with Betty Grable’s singing of “Down On Ami Ami Oni Oni Isle,” which Rampell called “absolutely delightful.’
While South Seas Cinema is a genre that Rampell said is designed as pure entertainment it can make people wince with its cultural insensitivity. Whites, Hispanics and Asians would often play islander roles and engage in Hollywood “brown face.” Rampell said that while these issues cannot be ignored and are a concern they should not completely distract from the entertainment value of the films.
Rampell’s symposium will focus on sex in South Seas Cinema because you simply can’t have a South Seas film without it. Plus, because Hollywood’s production code of the 1930s and ’40s focused on forbidding interracial relationships between blacks and whites, relationships between whites and Pacific Islanders could sneak by the censors and allow for some interesting themes to be raised.
Tiki Oasis is sold out but tickets to individual symposiums and events can be purchased, and the arts show, car show and marketplace are open and free to the public. There is also a complete list of the symposiums online.
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