Finding Weng Weng, the pint-sized James Bond from the Filipino film

It took Leavold a decade to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. Some of his research focused on a separate feature documentary, Mark Hartley’s 2010 Machete Maidens Unleashed! He also embarked on a doctoral thesis on the history of Filipino genre cinema: “I could then articulate the argument that these so-called B movies or trash movies are, in fact, fascinating and deserve to be. discussed.

Throughout his own film, the image of Weng Weng – or Ernesto de la Cruz, to use his real name – takes on multiple meanings. As Leavold puts it, it is “a kind of poster” for Filipino cinema and for film industries around the world who achieve originality by reflecting Hollywood in a distorted mirror. It is also linked to Santo Nino, the figure of the Christ Child who holds a special place in Filipino culture.

The film even includes an interview with former first lady Imelda Marcos, whose family treated Weng Weng like a virtual court jester: “She went into an incredible soliloquy about Weng Weng overcoming his disabilities and distortions to give so much, and how that represents the Filipino spirit. ”

Leavold himself seems to regard Weng Weng as his spiritual guide, admitting that there have been “dark moments” during the many years of working on the project. “It’s not something you can make money with,” he says. “I am penniless and homeless. The store closed in 2010. »

But eventually it all paid off: After fans participated via Kickstarter, the finished film was enthusiastically received both in the Philippines and at festivals around the world. “Right now, I couldn’t be happier, and it’s thanks to Weng Weng.”

What would Weng Weng himself, who died in 1992, have thought of all this? Leavold admits that without having personally encountered his subject, he can never really find out. But he has his own ideas: “I think he accepted everything with good grace and humor.”

Despite everything, Leavold suggests, Weng Weng remained innocent. “You can really see him as that little saint they’re talking about,” he said. “There is something a little otherworldly about Weng Weng. This is probably the reason I got it tattooed on my arm – and why it still invades my dreams to this day trash video"}” data-sheets-userformat=”{"2":513,"3":{"1":0},"12":0}”>trash video. ”

The search for Weng Weng screenings at the Melbourne International Film Festival on August 14-16. miff.com.au

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Brian Steele

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