Vera Graaf's adventure tale VIRGIN TERRITORIES takes you to the mysterious isle of Virgin Gorda in the outer reaches of the British Virgin Islands. It's the 1970s, a time of pristine beaches and reefs, of sleepy villages, where people bury their ancestors in the backyard and where everyone believes in jumbys, duppys and other island ghosts. It's a place where the evening's entertainment is posted on the trunk of a tree, and where no one has ever seen a movie.
Into this idyllic setting stumbles a young American couple, naive and with a little money to burn. Determined to leave their irresponsible hippie life behind, they open the first movie theatre on the island. After some intense encounters with the overzealous West Indian bureaucracy, and in spite of the experts' warning to stay away from such a venture, the Argus Cinema opens its doors with great fanfare in the spring of 1974. From then on VIRGIN TERRITORIES becomes a bouncy joyride, taking its protagonists Michael and Vera from the dizzy heights of small-island-success (when "The Sound of Music" is shown) to utter shame and soul-searching ("The Godfather" is deemed too cruel and bloody). In between there are spirited encounters with islanders and the couple's visiting families, followed by mysterious ghosts that start haunting their back yard. And, sadly, there are the movie theater's diminishing fortunes that, in the end, lead the couple after barely a year of operations to close the Argus Cinema for good. Inspired by Steve McQueen and Ali McGraw in "The Getaway", our couple, instead of simply shuttering the place, decide on a dramatic getaway that inscribes them forever in the annals of the island as "the Godfather and the Godmother".
About the Author
Vera Graaf is a writer, journalist and documentary filmmaker, born in Germany and living in New York City. She spent the 1970s in the Caribbean, first as a hippie on the beaches of St. Barthelemy in the French West Indies, then, with her life partner Michael Zimmer, owning and operating a movie theater on British Virgin Gorda.
VIRGIN TERRITORIES (2022), and a German language version, HOFMANNSTHALS ENKEL (Muery Salzmann Verlag, Salzburg, Austria, 2020), are based on this adventure. As a journalist in the 1980s and 90s, VG covered art and architecture, design and other cultural news for various German publications, such as DER SPIEGEL, DIE ZEIT and SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG. Her documentaries STRANGER FROM AWAY and SOUVENIRS (in collaboration with Max Scott/Ovideo) were screened widely on television and at film festivals in the US and Canada.
"Vera Graaf's tale of her and husband Michael's days of running a movie theater on the island of Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands stands right up there with the classic Caribbean tale DON'T STOP THE CARNIVAL by Herman Wouk. But Vera's story is fact, not fiction, filled with stories of life in the islands before cell phones, SAT TV and the internet. It was a different place, and this book is a must read for those who want to know what is was like in those days." - Jimmy Buffett
"VIRGIN TERRITORIES delivers us into an entire world we'd never otherwise know, or even dream up - who could imagine lugging seats from a Miami porn theatre to a remote island in the Caribbean, on a mission to bring movies to people who have never been to the movies? Graaf's account is funny, surprising and touching - for the islanders we meet, for the innocent 70s optimism, for the reminder of an infinitely freer, less fraught world, and the once-solid currency of beauty and youth." - Isabel Fonseca
"A good story, told with grace and wit. Just like a tight-rope walker, the author manages to hold the balance between humor and melancholy." - Hans Magnus Enzensberger
"This is one of those books that you breeze through and when you get to the last page you really wish you could just live in the world the writer has transported you in, forever. So much humor, wit and charm, the writing is colorful, the story is exhilarating and you're along for the ride all the way through. Loved it!" - Elle Pea
"Vera Graaf describes with a lot of empathy, humor and sharp observation how, in the 1970s, two young idealistic cinema buffs manage to bring the gift of cinema to a Caribbean island torn between belief in ghosts and in Jesus Christ." - Barbara Sukowa