Vilsoni Hereniko’s research, teaching, and creative work explore issues related to climate change, indigenous storytelling, art and cultural identity, and the politics of representation in all kinds of media. He is an award-winning filmmaker and playwright as well as a screenwriter and director. As an academic, his research integrates the scholarly and the creative.
Hereniko’s first narrative feature film Pear ta Ma ‘On Maf: The Land Has Eyes had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival and European premiere at the Rotterdam International Film Festival. Selected for competition at the Shanghai International Film Festival and screened at more than thirty international and indigenous film festivals, it won Best Dramatic Feature at the Imaginative Film and Media Arts Festival in Toronto, Canada. Fiji also nominated it as Best Foreign Language film to the Academy Awards in 2005. It also had a commercial theatre run, was selected for broadcasting nation-wide on PBS, and screened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. Hereniko has also made short narrative films and documentaries and was a story and cultural consultant for Walt Disney’s animated film Moana.
Hereniko’s book, Woven Gods: Female Clowns and Power in Rotuma, makes a compelling case for the use of objective as well as subjective perspectives in ethnographic research in order to capture the complexity of human nature and cultures. His co-edited book Inside Out: Literature, Cultural Politics, and Identity in the New Pacific examines the literatures and arts of Oceania in their social and political contexts.
Hereniko has written for the stage as well, most notably The Last Virgin in Paradise, The Monster, and Moana: The Rising of the Sea (this musical production about climate change in the Pacific toured Norway, Belgium, Copenhagen, and Scotland in 2015). His films and stage productions have reached audiences in North America, Europe, Russia, Asia, and throughout Oceania, including Australia and New Zealand. His films and plays are being distributed throughout the world to universities and public libraries through Alexander Street, a ProQuest Company.
Hereniko received the Ph.D. in Literature and Language from the University of the South Pacific (USP) in Fiji and the M.Ed. from the University of Newcastle-upon Tyne in England. He has served as the Director of the Center for Pacific Islands Studies at the University of Hawaiʻi as well as Director of the Oceania Center for Arts, Culture, and Pacific Studies at USP. Originally from Rotuma, Fiji, he is his island’s first full professor in the world, and its only playwright and filmmaker.