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The Great Raid (2005)
Filipinos Fight Side by Side for Freedom and U.S. Democracy
The Great Raid ----- August 12, 2005, a review by Teresita "Terry" Bautista
Berkeley, CA In the near-empty Shattuck Cinema, I gave myself the birthday gift of watching The Great Raid on opening night. This film, a chronicle of early 1945 events in The Philippines, has been highly anticipated in the U.S. Filipino Community, mostly by those of us who are fighting to achieve full equity for our Veteranos.
My mom, aunt and uncle joined me, as the initial documentary footage validated the historical scenes of war and resistance, as if you were there over 60 years ago. As expected, my mom made constant commentary throughout the film, as the scenes brought back, often frightening, memories. Anxiously, she recounted in soft whispers of her bout with malaria, which meant sure death, until her father decided she would not be left behind, as they ran every day to escape the Japanese. Like the film's prisoner of war, quinine was the saving prescription for my mom's malaria-stricken body.
The Great Raid is an army flick, similar to the scores I've seen in the past 50 years. Less melodramatic, though powerful in its interpretation of the human condition during war, the movie takes you into a POW camp where 500 detainees eke out survival under the Japanese flag. The acting was understated and reflected deep agony and despair without the flair of cinema-edged bravado. No John Waynes or Anthony Quinns in this version. The casting was done with a sense of nuance for each of the heroic personas.
The subplots were gripping. The valiant efforts of the underground that smuggled medicine to the ill and dying prisoners; the array of authority figures in the military who made heart-rending decisions about strategy and tactics; the rescue mission that galvanized a unit of 120 special rangers who had yet to see the extreme fires of combat; the unlikely relationships that bound survivors in their fate.
Some high points of the painful, two and a half- hour mendacity tensed you to the edge of your seat ----- the brutality of the Japanese, not withstanding the execution of ten prisoners for one escapee; the burning funeral of a hundred Filipinos, many of them women and children villagers, near the Cabanatuan Prison; the spectacular, surprise invasion of the Japanese camp; the courage of the Filipino Guerrilas and their exemplary warrior spirits led by Captain Pajota, as their steeled defense of a bridge held the Japanese and their tanks captive and effectively severed an avenue of retaliations to the explosions and attack in their war camp.
The sacrifices of the fighting forces to liberate the Philippines were stark and many. The younger generations, especially those of Filipino descent, are urged to see what their homeland heroes were made of. This long war was waged in face-to-face, hand-to-hand combat with bravery for duty and beyond.
I went to see this as a way of honoring my dad, a U.S. Army private, who survived WWII, found his war bride, and fathered his first-born. I have deep respect and admiration for those like my Pop, who still live to tell their stories, who today are still struggling for full recognition of shed blood, sweat, and tears, at a time where their homeland joined the world's battlefields.
WWII Filipino Veterans soldiers deserve Full Equity Now!