This film is held by the BFI (ID: 18415).


Independence in Fiji in October 1970.

Union flag flying, with words 'Independence for Fiji' superimposed. Union flag being taken down as part of the ceremonies at the Albert Park stadium, Suva, 9 October 1970. The Fijian flag. Prince Charles in Royal box at the independence day ceremony. Clock chiming 10 o'clock. Prince Charles handing the documents of independence to the new Fijian Prime Minister, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara. Shots of the enthusiastic crowd at the stadium. Military events in the stadium, band plays 'God Save the Queen'. Aerial shots of Fiji, showing the outline of an island, waterfalls, mountains and rivers. Rural scenes, accompanied by announcements about the day of independence on Radio Fiji. Royal plane landing at Suva Airport, 9 October 1970. Prince Charles greeted by dignitaries on the runaway; he inspects Fijian troops and there is a cannon salute in his honour. Prince Charles entering Albert Park Stadium in Rolls Royce for the welcoming ceremony, 9 October 1970.

Prince Charles mounts steps to the Royal box. He is welcomed by Fijian chiefs and warriors, and is offered Kava, a narcotic drink, which he swallows. Shots of stadium reveal the gifts of the tribal chiefs, including slaughtered pigs, live turtles and piles of produce. Indian procession and welcome for Prince Charles; he is garlanded by an Indian woman. Prince Charles's welcoming speech. Tribal chief makes response to Prince Charles's speech in his own language. Union flag being lowered. Robert Sidney Foster being sworn in as Governor General of Fiji. Albert Park Stadium, 10 October 1970: independence day ceremony. Prince Charles arrives and is greeted by Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara. Prince Charles reads message from the Queen. Prince Charles handing documents of independence to Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara. Speech of the new Prime Minister, accompanied in part by footage of Fijian countryside and towns, and by individual shots of Fijians of different ethnicities. Fijian flag being raised. Clock at Albert Park strikes 10 o'clock, the hour set for independence. Military flyover; cannon salute; crowd cheering; military band playing 'God Save the Queen'.

Independence celebrations at Albert Park: military parade; tribal dancing by indigenous Fijians; dance by Indian women; oriental aerobics display; dance by indigenous Fijian women; warrior dance; parachutists. Night scenes: Indian women dancing; a dragon procession; tribal dancing; firework display. Albert Park Stadium, 11 October 1970: ecumenical service featuring representatives of the islands' different religions, attended by Prince Charles and Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara. 12 October 1970: Prince Charles visits Levuka, where he unveils a memorial commemorating Fiji's independence and greets servicemen. Prince Charles on fishing trip near Bau Island. 13 October 1970: Prince Charles visits Labasa (where he drives a steam locomotive, cuts cane, plays a traditional board game, watches dances, and inspects troops), Taveuni (which is muddy from rain), and Savusavu (where the chairman of the independence celebrations committee crowns the winner of a competition). 14 October 1970: Prince Charles visits Nadi (where he sees another tribal dance), Bau (where he is garlanded), and Lautoka (which he rides through in open-backed Land-rover and where he presents a trophy after a rugby match). Prince departing in Royal plane after another inspection of troops and a farewell to the Prime Minister and other dignitaries. Aerial shots of Fiji. Shot of clock at 10 o'clock. Fijian flag being raised. Credits.



Fiji became a colony in 1874 when the Fijian tribal chief, Ratu Seru Epenisa Cakobau, voluntarily ceded the islands to Britain. The British operated a system of indirect rule in Fiji, under which the British Governor worked in consultation with village chiefs with a policy of preserving native traditions (McIntyre, 2001, 668). By the end of the decade, the British had created their first sugar plantations. Here they disallowed the use of Fijian labour, due to the islanders’ tradition of subsistence agriculture, and instead brought in contracted Indian workers (McIntyre, 2001, 668-69). Indians soon made up a substantial proportion of the population of Fiji, and from 1946 until 1989 were in the majority on the islands (McIntyre, 2001, 680-81).

In the cost-benefit analysis of the Empire drawn up for Harold Macmillan in 1957 it was decided that Britain should not withdraw from Fiji, as to do so would result in ethnic tensions (McIntyre, 2001, 684). Nevertheless, following the decolonisation trend in other territories, conferences were held in London in July 1965 and April 1970 to discuss independence. The indigenous Fijians bargained for a system under which there would be a bicameral Parliament, with a Senate that preserved some of the interests of Fijian chiefs, and a popularly elected House of Representatives. The House of Representatives was composed of 52 seats, 27 of which were elected communally, and 25 nationally; correspondingly voters cast two votes, one for the candidate of their own community and one nationally. This system entrenched the separation of Fijian politics along ethnic lines and was regarded as being biased towards the interests of Native Fijians and Europeans (Scarr, 1984, 170-71).

Fijian independence came at 10 o’clock, 10 October 1970. As representative of the Queen, Prince Charles presided over formalities at the welcoming ceremony and the independence ceremony, which took place at Albert Park Stadium, Suva, on 9 and 10 October respectively. In the following days he undertook a tour of the islands. These events were recorded in the film Independence for Fiji, which was produced by the Australian Commonwealth Film Unitandthe Fiji Government Public Relations Office Film Unit for the Government of Fiji. The Australian Commonwealth Film Unit was formed in 1945 as the Australian National Film Board, before being renamed in 1956 (in 1973 it became Film Australia). Part of the Department of Information, the majority of its films have been aimed at the education market, and have predominantly been commissioned by Australian governmental departments (Bertrand and Adamson, 1999, 154). The origins of the commission for this film from the Fijian government are not known; it was however distributed by the Australian Commonwealth Film Unit, and it appears to have been aimed at Australasian audiences (Aoki, 1994, 132).

Since independence, the parliament of Fiji has been dominated by Native Fijians. The tribal leader, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, held the office of Prime Minister for an almost unbroken period from 1970 to 1992, and served as President from 1993 to 2000. Attempts by Indian political parties to hold power have ended in disarray (as with election victory of 1977), or they have been thwarted (the election of Fiji’s first majority Indian government in 1987 resulted in two military coups; and in 2000, Mahendra Chaudhry, Fiji's first Indian-Fijian Prime Minister, was deposed in a further military coup). Ongoing ethnic tensions have led to large number of Indian-Fijians and other minorities emigrating from the islands. Fiji has also twice been expelled from the Commonwealth. 



Independence for Fiji has several aims: to document Prince Charles’s attendance at the Fijian independence events; to make claims for the harmonious state of existence between the peoples of Fiji; to make claims for the friendly relationship between Fiji and Britain; and to promote Fiji as an attractive destination.

The documentation of the independence events is interesting. On the one hand, the film provides a thorough account of what took place. It unfolds in near chronological order, beginning with the welcome ceremony and culminating with Prince Charles’s tour. It also captures a great deal of detail, both temporally (some of the ceremonial events are allowed to unfold in real time) and visually (the cameraman employs close-ups to record a written oath of allegiance). On the other hand, this film is not simply a 'raw' actuality record of the events: the filmmakers employ various techniques to create deliberate emphases and impressions.

The filmmakers are in tune with the ideals of the independence celebrations. At the welcoming ceremony Prince Charles spoke of ‘the future potential of this multi-racial society’, while at the independence ceremony Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara looked forward to ‘a strong, united Fiji, rich in its diversity and tempered with tolerance, goodwill and understanding’. These speeches are duly recorded in the film, and they are reinforced by a still more positive statement: the commentary argues that the celebrations ‘saw nothing but harmony, happiness and rejoicing among the nation’s multi-racial population’. The ceremonies were careful to combine Fiji’s indigenous and immigrant peoples. Shown here are a number of different displays from the islands’ various communities. Prince Charles highlights this diversity in one of his speeches, noting that the combination is a ‘departure from tradition’. The film further records the diversity of Fiji, both through its camerawork (at the ceremonial events it picks out people of various ethnicities in the crowd), and through its use of sound recordings (the film samples the transmissions of Radio Fiji, which are made in various languages). This is not to say that Independence for Fiji provides an even balance. In the film, as with the ceremonies, the Fijian tribal chiefs are given pride of place. At each of the main ceremonial events the chiefs were located in the centre of the stadia, facing the royal box. The film gives its greatest amount of screen time to the chiefs’ welcoming ceremony, using multiple camera positions to record each stage of the procedures.

Independence for Fiji is similarly in tune with the ceremonies in its stress upon the regard that Fiji and Britain have for each other. In one of his speeches, Prince Charles quotes his mother, stating ‘there has always been mutual faith and confidence between Fiji and Britain, while the new Prime Minister talks of ‘the warm feelings of our people of Fiji for the Crown, the United Kingdom, and its peoples’. The commentary notesthe moderate nature of British rule, from its beginning (‘the chiefs of Fiji ceded their islands freely and of their own wish to Queen Victoria’), to its end (‘the British government restored independence willingly at the request of the government of Fiji’). For the majority of the film Prince Charles is the centre of attention: its focus is upon the events at which he was guest of honour, and it is careful to record his reactions to the proceedings. Such is the film’s concentration upon Charles, that it is structured to give the impression that its aerial footage is shot from his point of view, recording his sights of Fiji as the Royal plane arrives and departs from the islands.

This emphasis on Charles is slightly disingenuous. While it is illustrative of the Royal family’s continued popularity, it is also used to demonstrate the attractiveness of Fiji. From the air, Charles/the filmmakers look down upon an island paradise. To the accompaniment of heavenly music we see images of verdant lands and gushing waterfalls; meanwhile the commentary describes Fiji as being ‘desirable, inviting, enticing’.Similarly, just as the tour of the island was designed to show Fiji in the best light to Charles, it also shows it in the best light to the viewer. The Prince travels to charming destinations and visits charming people.  The filmmakers’ desire to promote Fiji as a pleasant destination is made clear in one of the few segments that does not feature Charles. At the independence day ceremony they record the speech of the new Prime Minister. While the soundtrack allows his words to continue, the camera soon moves away from him, replacing shots of him speaking with images of Fiji’s beautiful countryside, vibrant townships and happy, multicultural people.

Richard Osborne 


Works Cited

Aoki, Diane, ed., Moving Images of the Pacific Islands: A Guide to Films and Videos (Honolulu: Center for Pacific Studies, 1994).

Bertrand, Ina, and Judith Adamson, ‘Film Australia’, in The Oxford Companion to Australian Film, ed. by Brian McFarlane, Geoff Mayer and Ina Bertrand (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 154-55.

McIntyre, W. David, ‘Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands’, in The Oxford History of the British Empire: Volume IV: The Twentieth Century, ed. by Judith M. Brown and Wm. Roger Louis (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 667-92.

Scarr, Deryck, Fiji: A Short History (Hawaii: Institute for Polynesian Studies, 1984).




Technical Data

Running Time:
51 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
16mm Film

Production Credits

Production Countries:
SHAW, John
BROWN, Kelly
Production Company
Australian Commonwealth Film Unit