6.6/10
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And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself (2003)

Hollywood makes a deal with Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa to film his war and recreate his life.

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Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 9 wins & 21 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Frank Thayer
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Sam Drebben
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Harry Aitken
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William Christy Cabanne
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Teddy Sampson
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William Benton (as Anthony Stewart Head)
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Eli Morton
Cosme Alberto ...
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Don Luis Terrazas (as Pedro Armendáriz)
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Priest
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Storyline

Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa (Antonio Banderas) finds himself without adequate funding to finance his war against the military-run government. He also finds himself at odds with the Americans because of the Hearst media empire's press campaign against him. To counter both of these, he sends emissaries to movie producers to convince them to pay to film his progress and the actual battles. Producer D.W. Griffith (Colm Feore) becomes interested and sends Frank Thayer (Eion Bailey) with a film crew to develop film reels. Thayer becomes horrified and fascinated by the bandit. He finds an enigmatic individual that is both ghoulishly brutal and charmingly captivating. The resulting film became the first feature length movie, introducing scores of Americans to the true horrors of war that they had never personally seen. Thayer sold the studios on making the film despite their concerns that no one would sit through a movie longer than 1 hour by convincing them that they could raise the ... Written by John Sacksteder <jsackste@bellsouth.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

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Lights. Camera. Revolution.


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7 September 2003 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Pancho Villa  »

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1.78 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Eion Bailey's character, Frank Thayer, went to Harvard University as did his character, Pvt. David Kenyon Webster, from Band of Brothers (2001). See more »

Goofs

At the beginning of the film, Pancho Villa makes a remark about Charlie Chaplin. This scene takes place sometime between the end of 1913 and the beginning of 1914. Chaplin made his screen debut in January 1914. In any case, there's no chance that Pancho Villa would have known Chaplin's films, considering that at that time (1914) the future star was just only another Keystone employee. See more »

Quotes

D.W. Griffith: [on Pancho Villa] He's the James Boys, he's Billy the Kid, he's Napoleon all in one.
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Connections

References Lawrence of Arabia (1962) See more »

Soundtracks

On a Tree by a River a Little Tom Tit
from "The Mikado"
Written by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan
Performed by John Reed, the Royal Philarmonic Orchestra and D'Oyey Carte Opera Company
Courtesy of Decca Music Group Limited
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User Reviews

 
Excellent account of an absurd true story
9 December 2004 | by (Beverley Hills, England) – See all my reviews

Pancho Villa is a Mexican general who makes a deal with a movie studio where he will get $25,000 in gold, in exchange for the rights to film his battles. This is quite an absurd idea, especially as it leads to certain battles being 'made to measure' for the camera, and it becomes even more absurd when you realize that this is actually a true story. Yes, that's right; And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself is actually a film about the making of another film from 1914, known as 'The Life of General Villa'. The film is a little like Shadow of the Vampire, in that it depicts the making of an old film, using today's actors to play the people involved in the making of the old film. This film was made for American TV, and to me this seems a great injustice and a commentary on what the American film industry thinks of it's audience. Like 1995's Citizen X, the only reason that I can think of as to why this wasn't given a cinema release is that it would be lost on it's potential audience.

The film features a number of familiar faces. People that you often see in films, but don't know their names. Here we have the excellent Alan Arkin, who's one of my favourite 'smaller' stars without a doubt, Jim Broadbent, Eion Bailey and Anthony Head from the rubbish 'Buffy' program also makes an appearance. The real acting plaudits, however, go to Antonio Banderas for his complete embodiment of the title character. I've heard a number of people say bad things about Antonio in this movie, but I have no idea why; here he gives what is probably the best performance of his career. In fact, he is so good that after a while you forget that you're watching an actor and it actually seems like Pancho Villa really is starring as himself. This does the movie no end of favours on the reality front as it continually switches between the movie that they're making and the reality of Pancho Villa's revolution. This movie does an excellent job of catching an authentic Mexican atmosphere, and this is made even finer by way of an excellent, subtle, score.

The battles in the film are excellently staged, and also quite violent and bloody; which is always nice to see. That came as something of a surprise to me as, with this being a TV movie, I wasn't expecting the battles to be particularly well done. The message that this film has seems to be that people can be made to believe anything. As one character professes at one point in the film, "the lens is mightier than the sword", and through the way that the film shows the difference between what the film that the characters are making shows and what the truth is; this message comes across loud and clear.

Please don't miss this movie because it is cursed with '(TV)' after it's title; as although it isn't a masterpiece, it most definitely is well worth seeing.


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