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The Insular Empire

by Vanessa Warheit

What is it like to be a colonial subject of the greatest democracy on earth?

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THE INSULAR EMPIRE is the first film to document the United States’ historical – and ongoing – role as a colonial power. Six thousand miles west of California, the Mariana Islands are American territory; but after generations of loyalty, the people of Guam and the Northern Marianas still remain second-class US citizens. Following the personal stories of four indigenous island leaders, this provocative film explores the history of American colonization in the Pacific. It is a moving story of loyalty and betrayal, about a patriotic island people struggling to find their place within the American political family. This landmark film is an ideal cross-disciplinary resource, appropriate for courses in American Studies, US or Pacific History, Colonial and post-Colonial Studies, Ethnic Studies, Native American Studies, Geography, Anthropology, Law, Peace & Conflict Studies, Psychology, Social Work, Sociology, and Political Science.


quoteIt’s been a long time since I’ve seen such an impressive documentary – The Insular Empire should be a wake-up call for all Americans.
Chalmers Johnson, Author of the Blowback Trilogy and Professor Emeritus, Political Science, UC San Diego

full review

quoteVisually engaging, tightly edited and well-paced, the film is also thoroughly researched and accurate in its treatment of a lengthy historical chronology and complex political landscape. The Insular Empire is an excellent teaching tool for high school and college classes in American government, history, politics, and Pacific Studies, and for consideration of questions of imperialism, colonialism, and self-determination. This is an important documentary film, which deserves wide viewing and thoughtful discussion.
Don Rubenstein, Prof. of Anthropology and Micronesian Studies, University of Guam
Asian Educational Media Service

quoteA must-see teaching tool... grapples with the moral and legal questions regarding imperialism, military expansion, and self-determination in a way that is brilliantly incisive without being heavy handed.
J. Kehaulani Kauanui, Associate Professor of American Studies and Anthropology
Wesleyan University
full review

quoteAbsolutely terrific. Incisive, thought-provoking, and so well made in every way. I'm so very glad that we added it to our collection here at USC.
Anthony Anderson
USC Libraries

quoteA valuable resource for teaching and organizing.
John Junkerman
The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus

More Reviews


  • National PBS broadcast, 2010
  • Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Munich, Trans-Pacific Americas international conference, 2012
  • Guam International Film Festival, 2011
  • UC Irvine, Critical Ethnic Studies Conference, 2011

  • UCLA Law School, Critical Race Studies Symposium, 2011

  • Pacific Rim Film Festival, 2010

  • University of Hawaii, public screening, 2010

  • Evergreen State College public screening, 2010

  • University of Guam public screening, 2010

  • Peaceful New Earth Celebration Part II, Tokyo, Japan, 2010

  • Famoksaiyan Micronesian Conference, University of Washington, 2010

  • Saipan public screening, 2010

Resource Web Sites

appleScreening & Study Guide

Please note that the study guide is password protected, and only available to those purchasing educational or community versions of the film. If you have already purchased a copy of The Insular Empire, please contact the filmmaker for your access code.

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The Insular Empire

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Appropriate for: Middle School High School College/University

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Online Screening & Study Guide available with Educational/Community DVD or Streaming purchase!

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