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‘The Search for Weng Weng’ to have world premiere at UP Film Center

The poster for the documentary 'The Search for Weng Weng'.

No longer a work in progress, Andrew Leavold’s “The Search for Weng Weng” will finally have its world premiere this Friday, November 29, at the UP Film Center in UP Diliman.

This was announced by Leavold himself on his Facebook page and in a subsequent communiqué with InterAksyon. In his own words, the eccentric Australian filmmaker who worked on the project for the last seven years described his completed tribute to the late Filipino actor and martial artist Weng Weng as his “obsessive quest to find the two-foot-nine Filipino James Bond”.

In several notes that he posted on Facebook, Leavold said watching Weng Weng in the latter’s now classic James Bond parody “For Your Height Only” was a “life-changing” moment for him.

“I was immediately hooked, but wanted to know more. Who was Weng Weng? Where did he come from, and what happened to him. Were there other Weng Weng films, and — was he still alive? Not even the internet could shed light on what appeared to be a forgotten life,” he wondered.

Director Andrew Leavold at the recent Cinema One Originals awards night. (Photo courtesy of Don Gordon Bell)

His obsession grew even stronger when he was invited to a film festival in Manila in 2006.

“I went with a video camera in one hand, determined to uncover once and for all the mystery of Weng Weng. Eventually I found the complete story, but not before the adventure of a lifetime — and it’s all caught on film! Refereeing a dwarf boxing match…boots-deep on the set of a Bruno Mattei zombie film… guest of honor at Imelda Marcos’ birthday party …and finding myself face-to-face with the only person in the world who could piece the puzzle together,” he recalled.

That only person turned out to be Weng Weng’s surviving brother who revealed to him more astonishing things about the legendary actor, who passed away in 1992.

“Weng Weng’s story, it turns out, is even more extraordinary than I could have ever imagined: real life secret agent, international superstar beating George Lucas at the box office, and the rest — heartbreaking, bizarre, exhilarating,” Leavold further enthused.

Earlier this year, a rough cut of the documentary entitled “The Search for Weng Weng: A Work in Progress” was screened in exhibition during the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival last August at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

In addition to Weng Weng’s brother, Leavold also interviewed an eclectic mix of personalities that included 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 for his documentary.

Leavold promised that most of the interviewees will grace the UP Film Center screening. Whether those interviewees will include former First Lady and Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Marcos, who is reportedly ill, remains unknown.

'The Search for Weng Weng' comics. (Photo from author Ronald Tan's Facebook page)

Weng Weng’s family will attend the premiere along with the film’s creative team, including co-writer/producer Daniel Palisa and soundtrack star Roy Arabejo from Australia, editor Jim Scott from the United Kingdom, line producer Kristine Kintana, cinematographer Jordan Arabejo and cartoonist Ronald Tan, who created a very limited edition souvenir world premiere comics that features a tribute cover to the victims of typhoon Yolanda.

Yes, part of the proceeds of the screening and sales of the souvenir comics will be donated to the typhoon victims.

As to what are the new things that people, especially those who have seen the previous cuts of the film, can expect from the final version, Leavold revealed a few spoilers in an earlier interview with InterAksyon also last August.

“For the final cut, we shot some amazing stuff at the Redemptorist Church in Baclaran where Weng Weng’s mother used to pray. Also those stories about Weng Weng believing himself to be the Santo Niño, I’m also saving them for the final cut,” the filmmaker revealed.

Regardless of what eventually made it to the completed version, Leavold promises a night to remember at “The Search for Weng Weng” world premiere. Tickets are priced at P143 each and may be reserved by clicking at the film’s event page.

InterAksyon.com