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FOR YOUR EYES ONLY | Rough cut of Weng Weng docu to be screened at Cinemalaya

The poster for Andrew Leavold's documentary-in-progress, 'The Search for Weng Weng'.

Back in 2006, eccentric Australian filmmaker Andrew Leavold began work on a documentary on the life and times of the late Weng Weng, the pint-sized Filipino actor and martial artist who became a superstar through hit movies like “D’ Wild Wild Weng”, “For Y’ur Height Only” and “The Impossible Kid”.

This Saturday, a rough cut of that documentary titled “The Search for Weng Weng: A Work in Progress” will be screened at the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival as one of the documentaries in exhibition.

“It’s a very rough sketch form without the new footage we shot in June, which changes the film’s structure completely, and without fine editing or sound mixing. However the story’s there and I think it plays well,” Leavold told InterAksyon in a recent interview.

Leavold said the “Cinemalaya Cut” of his unfinished documentary will “never, ever be screened anywhere else in the world again” after Saturday’s screening.

“Think of it as a 90-minute ‘coming soon’ trailer! As a filmmaker I always find watching works-in-progress to be a fascinating experience,” he mused.

Leavold has been a fan of Weng Weng (real name: Ernesto Dela Cruz) since a friend showed him an old VHS of one of the latter’s films in the 1990s, He tracked down the whereabouts of the diminutive star in an effort to interview him. He then discovered that Weng Weng had already died of a heart attack in 1992 after turning to heavy drinking when his popularity started to wane by the late ’80s.

Andrew Leavold (third from left) with Weng Weng's family in Pasay City (Photo by Daniel Palisa courtesy of Andrew Leavold)

“Weng Weng died long before I had a chance to track him down. On my second trip, however, I did manage to find his only surviving brother, and he finally solved the mystery that I’d spent so long trying to decipher—the long-forgotten true story of the Philippines’ two-foot-nine James Bond,” he recalled.

In his rough cut, Leavold said Weng Weng’s story will be told through interviews with the likes of Tikoy Aguiluz, Rez Cortez, Roland Dantes, Celso de Guzman, Celing and Editha de la Cruz, Nick Deocampo, Dolphy, Jim Gaines Jr, Peque Gallaga, Rene Gracilla, Franco Guerrero, Tony Maharaj, Imee Marcos, Imelda Marcos, Eddie Nicart, Nick Nicholson, Rusty Santos, Richard Suarez and Edgardo “Boy” Vinarao.

Unfortunately, Leavold himself won’t be around to introduce the film to Cinemalaya audiences.

“Sadly my co-producer Dani and I can’t be there for the screening, as we’re poor struggling indie filmmakers like everyone else. We did record a special introduction for the CCP screening, though. You can almost close your eyes and imagine we’re sitting in your laps eating your popcorn,” he quipped.

But even as the documentary has already taken seven years and eight visits to the country, Leavold happily announced that the light at the end of the tunnel is already in sight. He expects to finish his the film before the end of the year.

“We will be back for the film’s post-production in October, and Manila’s world premiere by November. I can’t wait to hear everyone’s feedback from our Cinemalaya screening, and am very much looking forward to touring the Philippines in November with the final cut,” he declared.

“The Search for Weng Weng: A Work in Progress” will be screened at Cinemalaya for the first and only time on August 3, Saturday at 9PM at the CCP Little Theater.