Initially I thought this was a spoof documentary of a spoof film, I didn’t even believe the press release! It was only when I did a bit of research I found out that indeed the search for Weng Weng was the labour of love it was advertised to be.
If you missed the You-Tube sensation – the Weng Weng rap – (as I did) then let me bring you up to speed. ‘Weng Weng’ is the name of a two-foot actor who played the 00 agent in the Filipino version of the James Bond knock-offs ‘For Yur Height only’ and ‘The impossible Kid’ amongst others. Gadgets and all, these are complete low-budget imitations, except James Bond is played by the miniature human ‘Weng Weng’. This movie, ‘The Search for Weng Weng’ is a documentary made by Austrailian movie fanatic Andrew Leavold about the origin and ‘what happened to’ story of the obscure actor.
The movie opens with a large amount of scenes inserted from the ‘Weng Weng’ back catalogue and does a great job of a) making us understand the reasons why Leavold loves the star as much as he does – the films, as well as ‘Weng Weng’s acting are infectious! and b) catching us up on pretty much everything he knows about the star. It doesn’t take long before we establish that despite the comedic scenes shown in the Filipino movies this is not some cheap promotion of shit films, or indeed the exploitation of the gimmick of the star, this documentary is quite the opposite – a celebration of the person, and the legacy he left behind. After all, the movies are available worldwide, so why not give the star the notoriety he deserves.
As you join Leavold on his journey though ‘Weng Weng’s’ history you soon understand that this is not going to be an easy journey, and whilst I won’t go on too much for fear of ruining the mystery for you, it isn’t long before you venture into a world as obscure as the star himself.
We explore many aspects of the Philippines, from its origins and subsequent explosion of its film industry, how the countries politics promoted and influenced the direction the industry took. The colourful characters who ran the industry at the time, and how the culture, and development gap of the south pacific islands has impacted on the working population throughout the years. Rather amazingly ‘Weng Weng’ manages to have intimate involvement with all of these factors and so the story paces itself well without ever taking you away from the star who is at the very heart of the documentary.
In a sad irony his rags to ‘riches’ story could be that of any of the stars we idolise from Hollywood, indeed in another part of the world he would have fared better. But such is the tragedy of things, and the poignant truths portrayed frequently throughout the documentary make you face the hollow nature of the industry and the standards of exploitation people will drop to in the name of entertainment.
Indeed ‘Weng Weng’s’ life has all the ingredients of a fantastic movie – and I cannot believe there is a person on the planet more passionate about the MAN (not the image, or character) who could have told it better than Leavold. His passion, and talent for film making made for a seriously compelling 90 minutes.
I will end my review by saying that I began the documentary not even knowing who ‘Weng Weng’ was, or the movies he was in, but by the end I felt saddened I didn’t, as well as feeling I could hold my own as something of a ‘Weng Weng’ expert! I am in no way a sentimental person (or so my dearest tell me), but it was difficult not to feel inspired by ‘Weng Weng’s’ story and Leavold’s documentary was the perfect medium through which to tell it. If you ever need an example of how, no matter who you are, your actions will reach far beyond your grasp, you could do a lot worse than to reference ‘Weng Weng’, and now you have the movie though which to evidence it! ‘The Seach for Weng Weng’ is released through Monster Pictures 26/01/2014.