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One night in 1996, Australian cult video store owner-turned-guerrilla filmmaker Andrew Leavold dreamt he was in the Philippines directing a documentary about Weng Weng, the long-dead Filipino midget James Bond. Ten years later, he's actually in Manila making a deal with the forces of chaos and following his two-decade obsession to its logical conclusion. It's just the beginning of a very strange adventure, and as fate would have it, it's all captured on film. Armed only with a Mini-DV camera and with a head full of gloriously bad B-movies, Leavold fearlessly leaps into the trenches of the Philippines' once thriving film industry and allows blind chance and serendipity to point the way. He discovers a schizophrenic Asia-cum-America dotted with shopping malls and a scale model of Hollywood now a disaster zone, symptomatic of a country attempting to claw its way out of its post-colonial malaise, yet curiously on the verge of a digital filmmaking revolution. As for Weng Weng: he remains ... Written by
Among the many obsessive personal stories on film this one stands out
I guess I've now been around to see the two craziest movie projects of all time take shape - Kevin Brownlow's IT HAPPENED HERE begun when it's creator was 14, and Andrew Leavold's THE SEARCH FOR WENG WENG.
Brisbane video store proprietor Leavold stumbled across a dubbed copy of Phillipino trash movie FOR YOUR HEIGHT ONLY, featuring a three and a half foot Pinoy composite of Bruce Lee and James Bond. Unravelling the lead's forgotten story got to consume Leavold's life. Eight years, three mortgages on the store and a model exercise in cloud funding later, Leavold is touring the planet showing his documentary representing Weng Weng as action hero become tragic victim of exploitation become Catholic icon. The highlight of his attention getting live introductions is always Leavold showing the tattoo he had done on his shoulder in Manilla, showing Weng Weng in a religious aura.
The film itself is a shrewd mix of clips, interviews and accounts of its makers'adventures in the Philippines, which included being guest of honour at Imelda Marcos' 81st birthday party. Slowly Leavold finds his way to the star's low cost plot in the cemetery where the Manilla homeless live among the grave markers.
The result is surprisingly involving. It's remarkable that this one summons the know how to convince audiences that it's not a put on, not an unhealthy cash-in on it's sad little man subject and not something you should pass over for another look at GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY.
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