Sunday, October 23, 2016

Movie Review: The Search for Weng Weng

The Search for Weng Weng
Death Rides A Red Horse, Turkeyshoot Productions, Australia, 2007-2013.
The Search for Weng Weng title

There are a lot of rumours about unique and tiny action star Ernesto de la Cruz a.k.a Weng Weng (1957-1992) who according to the Guinness Book of Records was once the shortest actor. Nowadays the title belongs to Ajaykumar from India. Weng Weng was even rumoured to have been a real secret agent and taken part in infiltration missions. 
Weng Weng
B-movie enthusiast Andrew Leavold became obsessed with Weng Weng's films and traveled to Philippines to find out the facts about Weng Weng. He interviewed film historians and people who worked with Weng Weng, including director Eddie Nicart, editor Edgardo 'Boy' Vinarao and jovial actor Franco Guerrero. Also the only living relatives are interviewed. 
Eddie Nicart
Edgardo 'Boy' Vinarao
Franco Guerrero
Weng Weng is described as a lucky guy. The first of his popular films were small roles in "The Quick Brown Fox" (1980) and "Da Best in Fa West" (1981) starring comedian Dolphy but his career started already in 1976. He liked watching Karate and Kung Fu movies and started practicing martial arts. But he was also lonely and although his movies made money he didn't see any and he died as poor as he was born. Still he was happy to be an actor and to work with the leading ladies. He was also a brave stunt man, making his own stunts. His big breakthrough were the Agent 00- films. "For Y'ur Height Only" was the second in the series and the first movie of the series is considered a lost film. 
The producer Peter M. Caballes, who was Weng's guardian, and script writer Cora Ridon Caballes spent the money earned from the movies and Weng Weng did not get salary. Caballes' were friends of President Ferdinand Marcos, and Weng was a regular visitor in the President's Palace. The Marcos family supported Cinema Arts, and used the entertainment to cover the corruption and human right violations. It was quite crazy in the movie business of the Philippines at that time. Imelda Marcos is interviewed also. She hosted Manila Film Festivals to showcase the artistic films of the country, but the low brow films of Weng Weng were the only films that were sold for the foreign audiences and Weng Weng suddenly became an iconic Filipino actor. Many people were not comfortable with that. Still Weng Weng's popularity in the Philippines may also have been high partly because his innocent looks made him resemble Santo Niño, Child Jesus. The popularity also gave rise to Weng Weng impostors. 
The documentary tells Weng Weng's story that is quite tragic but also warm and delightful. Sometimes fact is stranger than fiction and so it was also in the Filipino movie industry. In the end fans from around the world express their fandom.

Rating: Very good

Starring as themselves: Tikoy Aguiluz, Roy Arabejo, Tilman Baumgaertel, Don Gordon Bell, Celso Ad. Castillo, Beth Chai, Teddie Co, Rez Cortez, Roland Dantes, Celing de la Cruz, Editha De La Cruz, Nick Deocampo, Dolphy, Jim Gaines, Peque Gallaga, Eddie Garcia, Franco Guerrero, John Kater, Andrew Leavold, Marrie Lee, Ed Lejano, Maria Isabel Lopez, Anthony Maharaj, Imee Marcos, Imelda Marcos, Pia Moran, Eddie Nicart, Daniel Palisa, Dante Pangilinan, Rusty Santos, Henry Strzalkowski, Bobby A. Suarez, Edgardo Vinarao, Weng Weng (archive footage)
Director: Andrew Leavold

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