The Search for Weng Weng (2014) MIFF Review

Wengwengfeature

Philippines 92 Mins

In the seventies and eighties, the Philippines had a thriving film industry; fast and with terrible working conditions for the cast and crew, they were churning out around three hundred films per year. Many were pisstakes or copies of Hollywood success, but few have had the resounding success and cult status of ‘For Y’ur Height Only’, a James Bond style film starring Weng Weng, an actor who stood just under three feet tall. Australian cult video storeowner and Weng Weng obsessive Andrew Leavold travels to Manila to discover what happened to this star.

It is a fascinating story – when Imelda Marcos hosted the Manila International Film Festival in 1982, the films weren’t being sold. Until ‘For Y’ur Height Only’ was screened and the film was picked up. Years later, while many people recognise the name Weng Weng, no-one seems to know what happened to him; perhaps because it was considered an embarrassment that the greatest film export of the country was a man many considered to be a freak and a novelty. The clips of the film included in this doco showed that, whilst it clearly was a novelty to have a small version of Bond running about, he was clearly quite a talented mover, and I didn’t feel that he was being insulted through these roles. Unfortunately, he was being exploited, and died in poverty.

Initially, I found the narration by Andrew Leavold to be annoying but as the film continued I warmed to him. By the time he ended up in the home of Imelda Marcos, celebrating her birthday, I was pleased he had put himself into the film as it added a layer of absurdity to the story. However, I felt it was about thirty minutes too long – the story had been told, and there was far more repetition than was needed. I do always like a documentary that introduces me to something new, though, and now I am most keen on seeing some of Weng Weng’s films for myself.

The Search for Weng Weng is screening at 9:00pm on Thursday August 14 at ACMI, and at 6:30pm on Saturday August 16 at Treasury Theatre. Book tickets at MIFF http://miff.com.au/program/search or call 9662 3722

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Filed under Documentary, Film Reviews, Foreign Language Film

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