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After 32 years, Weng Weng returns to Cannes with documentary

Weng Weng gets the star treatment at the Cannes International Film Festival in 1982. (Photo by Cesar Hernando)

Way back in 1982, Weng Weng walked the red carpet at the Cannes International Film Festival to promote his Agent 00 films. Then at the peak of his popularity, the diminutive martial artist and action star born Ernesto de la Cruz was accompanied by producers Pete and Cora Caballes of Liliw Productions.

“That same year, Mike de Leon’s ‘Batch 81’ was also at Cannes. Imagine ‘Batch 81’ and ‘For Y’ur Height Only’ representing the Philippines on the world stage!” quipped Australian filmmaker Andrew Leavold in an interview with InterAksyon.

Leavold is the director of “The Search for Weng Weng”, the acclaimed documentary about the ill-fated movie star that held its world premiere at the UP Film Center last November.

Now 32 years after that Cannes visit and 22 years after his untimely demise, Weng Weng is back in Cannes. Leavold said “The Search for Weng Weng” will premiere at a market screening on Tuesday, May 20.

“We hope to sell the film to potential distributors here at Cannes,” Leavold added. “So far, there is an offer on the table from an American distributor as well as some potential European sales.”

Asked if the French still remember Weng Weng from his films and last Cannes visit, Leavold replied in the affirmative.

“People here in Cannes have told me Weng Weng is still a huge cult figure in France. There’s a lot of love around our movie everywhere we show it, audiences don’t just like the film, they love it!” he exclaimed.

After the November screening at UP, “The Search for Weng Weng” has since travelled to other parts of the world, including Leavold’s native Australia where it finally premiered last March.

Its current stopover in Cannes is part of the film’s three-month European tour, which also included screenings at the recently concluded Udine Film Festival for Popular Asian Cinema in Italy.

Andrew Leavold wearing a t-shirt of the film at the 16th Udine Film Festival for Popular Asian Cinema. (Photo courtesy of Andrew Leavold)

“After Cannes, we’re off to London for the Terracotta Far East Film Festival and then at the Sheffield Documentary Film Festival followed by a Moving Kino screening in Berlin on June 11. I’m also re-introducing Weng Weng’s ‘The Impossible Kid’ dubbed in French in Paris and then we’ll go to Copenhagen and then onto another Far East film festival near Barcelona,” Leavold revealed.

By July or August, Leavold hopes to tour “The Search for Weng Weng” around the Philippines for its much-awaited local re-screenings.

For the eccentric filmmaker who spent hundreds of hours filming footage for the documentary that took seven years to complete, seeing the warm reception to his work everywhere it plays was like “winning the lottery”.

“For me the film’s greatest success has been communicating my love of the little guy to a much wider, global audience. As I’ve always said, this film is about devotion and obsession as much as it is about its two-foot-nine subject and that good things can come out of one’s compulsive quest, if you have your heart in the right place. I think audiences pick up on that purity of purpose,” he pointed out.

Asked how Weng Weng would feel about his renewed popularity if he were still alive today, Leavold believes that the little guy is very much aware of what’s going on.

“I suspect he’s here right now, sitting on my shoulders and giving everyone a big thumbs-up,” he enthused.

As part of the film’s ongoing tour, a new international trailer that ran for almost three minutes was recently posted online by the film’s Australian distributor, Monster Pictures. Watch it here: