The Search for Weng Weng (2013)
By: Devon B. on November 10, 2014 | Comments
The Search for Weng Weng
Credits
Director: Andrew Leavold
Screenplay: Andrew Leavold, Daniel Palisa
Country: Australia
The best thing in The Search for Weng Weng is a blink and you'll miss it moment in the end credits. Astute viewers will be rewarded with a glimpse of me holding a sign declaring my love for Weng Weng. Okay, so maybe most people won't care about that, but in the interest of disclosure it should be stated that the reason I appear in the movie is because Andrew Leavold, the film's director, is a friend of mine. I don't think our friendship made me view the film more favorably, as it started because that sign I was holding is 100% accurate. What made me view the film favorably is that I am the target market for this movie because I love Weng Weng.

Andrew Leavold has been working on the documentary for several years. Like anyone that's seen For Y'ur Height Only, Andrew took an interest in the film's diminutive star Weng Weng. Unlike everyone else, though, Andrew's interest augmented until it was a full blown obsession, and with rumours abounding and verified details about Weng Weng scarce, Andrew decided to go straight to the Philippines to get the truth about Weng Weng. Along the way he recruited co-writer/producer Daniel Palisa to help on the journey, and The Search For Weng Weng is the culmination of their obsession, a feature length documentary about Weng Weng and Andrew's quest to find him.

Early in the doco a film historian addresses the single issue anyone can have with Weng Weng's movies, and that is the uncomfortable idea that Weng Weng was on display as a freak. While I understand Weng Weng's acting career was rife with exploitation, I don't feel guilt watching his movies. There are moments in the films where I disapprove of his treatment, but the reason I love Weng Weng isn't because I want to laugh at him. He has an impish charm that purveys and overcomes any malicious intentions that might've got him on screen, and I love watching him beating the crap out of armies of goons.

Like Weng Weng's movies, The Search for Weng Weng has some moments of absolute joy, and not just in the film clips. For fans of Filipino cinema there are heaps of treats like when our guys get the one-armed executioner himself, Franco Guerrero, to help them on their quest. The best moment in the movie, aside from my picture, is when a film historian has an epiphany on camera and he instantly transitions from a naysayer into someone who takes great pride in his country's Wengy heritage. There is a lot of fun in the documentary, but there's no overlooking the sadness that runs rampant in Weng Weng's story. Weng Weng was indisputably exploited because his management took total advantage of his naivety. There are contradictions within the documentary with different people having a different take on Weng Weng, but most people agree that Weng Weng was not the most savvy guy around, and it seems that the people who should've been looking out for him didn't do their jobs. The only flaw with the film is that one of Weng Weng's exploiters doesn't appear to present her side of things, but the filmmakers gave her ample opportunity to be interviewed and she chose not to participate.

The Search for Weng Weng is about the search as much as the Weng Weng, so the film delves into Filipino film history and the societal factors that enabled Weng Weng's movies to be made, and this happily makes the documentary an important artifact of Filipino cinema and culture. This should pleasantly surprise those who assume the movie will just cover things like the irony of Weng Weng's international stardom. The detective work in the film leads through a diverse collection of people, including Imelda Marcos, the wife of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Her involvement leads to a moment so surreal it wouldn't be out of place in one of Weng Weng's movies. During a Q&A after the MIFF screening the directors explained that international audiences don't really understand the full relevance of this section, but for Filipino viewers it's incredible in the true sense of the word.

I knew a lot of the facts about Weng Weng before seeing the movie, but I still found it a highly engaging film, and the overall cultural insight will give the film appeal to people who might not be that interested in Weng Weng himself – a state of being I can only assume would be the result of some sort of blunt force head trauma. For foreigners the film is a poignant tribute to a man that deserved more than he got out of life, and for Filipino people it's an absolutely gut wrenching tale. The Search for Weng Weng is a remarkable achievement and testimony to what two goofballs can achieve if they put their minds to it. Now they just need to find that missing Agent 00 film.

The Search for Weng Weng DVD will be released by Monster Pictures domestically and in the UK. It's slated to hit stores in time for Xmas, and everyone knows nothing stuffs like Weng so hopefully the DVD will turn up in many a stocking over this holiday season. At the MIFF Q&A Andrew revealed that the DVD will now be a three disc slice of awesome, with the third disc being a soundtrack, so it's sure to be on everyone's letter to Santa (Nino).
Movie Score
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