John Sayles' AMIGO and A Moment in the Sun out at last.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Follow a new blog about AMIGO
is the new blog from Cooper Resabal. Cooper wore many hats in the making of AMIGO. He worked with Rolly and his team in locations, explaining this crazy process of filmmaking to the villagers of Toril and environs. Then Cooper joined the AD Dep, as interpreter to the village extras and local cast when the limits of John's Tagalog and our AD Kokoy's Boholano required some direct intervention. Cooper became our friend (and maybe Guardian of AMIGO) and now with Dieter and Bee is organizing the Bohol premiere of AMIGO in February.
Here's a wonderful picture of me with Cooper on the day we cut down bamboo.

John Sayles "monumental" new book A MOMENT IN THE SUN

John's book is being excerpted in McSweeney's Quarterly, as a booklet in a little inside-front-cover pocket of Issue 37 which should be out in early March 2012. Keep your eye out for it. Because you can't read the text on the booklet cover displayed here, below you can read a description of the chapters McSweeney's has culled from the Big Novel.

"It’s 1897,  Hod Brackenridge has left behind a miner’s life to follow news of gold to the Yukon. But with a new century looming, and war on the way, fate will soon throw him in with the criminals and con men that prey on hopeful men like him. And then it will take him much further than that. 

The four chapters included here form just one thread of A Moment in the Sun’s first act. Spanning five years and half a dozen countries, John Sayles’s latest novel takes the whole era in its sights—from the white coup in Wilmington, North Carolina, to the bloody dawn of U.S. interventionism in Cuba and the Philippines. Built on the voices of a breathtaking range of exiles in search of opportunity, the full book is a tremendous chronicle of a pivotal time. This is a story as big as its subject: history rediscovered through the lives of the people who made it happen. 

John Sayles’s previous novels include Pride of the Bimbos, Los Gusanos, and the National Book Award–nominated Union Dues. He has directed seventeen feature films, including Matewan, Eight Men Out, and Lone Star, and received a John Cassavetes Award, a John Steinbeck Award, and two Academy Award nominations. His latest film, Amigo, was completed in 2010."

80 degrees with scattered clouds

That's the temperature in Mar del Plata today. Here in Clinton Corners NY it's 22 with snow on the ground. Before the memory fades, meet some of our friends and companions from Mar del Plata.
Above you'll see Pablo Conde with his handsome boss, José Martínez Suárez. Pablo is the Programmer and José is the President. They are a great pair.
Left above is John with Helga Landauer. Helga made a beautiful movie called A Film About Anna Ahkmatova. One of the pleasures of Mar del Plata was having the time to actually see movies and this is a movie we really enjoyed and would not have discovered outside a very good festival.

And then right below that is John with filmmaker Cristina Raschia and me and Hal Hartley, the other tall American director. Cristina was our host in Buenos Aires. Here we are at El Maipú- delicious empanadas and Sorrentinos (little pillow-like raviolis).
I'm only sorry that I have no pictures to show you of Fernando Martín Peña or Alvaro Buela. Fernando is planning a Sayles retro at MALBA, the MOMA of BsAs, where he is the film curator and then we are going to visit Alvaro in Uruguay. 2012. Join us.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Here's where I begin to be photographed with the Who's Who of Filipinos in the US! Me with Winston Emano (David Magdael & Associates) whose work with Fil-Am Arts helped to fill the beautiful Grauman's Chinese Theater.
Then it's me with my first Consul General ever! Con Gen Mary Jo Aragon is so gracious and helpful. And for a change, look who's taller!
Thanks to all our friends for making our stay in LA fun: Carolyn and Nancy were our hosts and the rest of you are too many to mention.

After the whirlwind

We are finally home, after so many trips to film festivals. Too many airports, too many airplanes, too many seats that don't recline, but we've had a chance to show AMIGO to many of our good friends.
Here I am with Fiona Mitchell at the London International Film Festival. Why didn't I take pictures with Ros and John Hubbard, Jonathan Rutter, and the MacNair family, proper? Missed my chance.
From LIFF the best film was THE ARBOR by Clio Barnes. I hope some US distributor has the brains to buy it for release here.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


That's the number of hits on you tube for Amigo the Movie Trailer, as of 4:30pm Mar del Plata Argentina time.
That's a jump of 600 in the last few days.
What's going on?

Sunny Argentina

That's me, pointing at our Hotel Hermitage. We showed AMIGO in a gorgeous huge theater with a giant screen. John Sayles is not well known in Argentina where very few of our films have played. But those who know him love him.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Many Muses of John Sayles

The Hartford Courant wrote a great article on John last week.  If you're in Connecticut, check out the Sayles retrospective at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art!

Check out the article: What Inspires John Sayles?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

LA was great

Our AFI Festival screening was a great success. Despite disastrous online ticketing (apologies to all who were discouraged) over 700 people came to see AMIGO on the big screen at Grauman's Chinese Theater. Thanks to AFI Festival for inviting us and to the projectionist (hooray!) for beautiful projection.

We are turning some new corner. Instead of hearing about the dismal prospects for making money, we hear that AMIGO is beautiful and important and a good story. "Like MATEWAN" which will mean something to you oldtimers out there.

Thanks to Winston and Cate for all their help. And thank you all for coming. Keep the buzz building.
I'll get some photos up soon.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

See you there

Maybe that should be the subtitle of this blog: see you there.

This week LA, next week Hartford, and the next week, Mar del Plata.
Yes, as you Twitter followers may have noticed, John and I are taking AMIGO to the Mar del Plata Film Festival in Argentina.

Any Filipinos in Mar del Plata?

Best Boomer Movie? 

If that's the question, this guy says the answer is RETURN OF THE SECAUCUS SEVEN and you can see it next week at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford CT.

One of the most renowned and well-respected independent filmmakers
and writers, John Sayles has stayed true to his art by remaining free of
Hollywood constraints. Sayles uses the silver screen to explore social
issues and examine human nature. Join us for a weekend celebrating the
storytelling ability of this American legend.

7:30 p.m.
Meet director JOHN SAYLES
before a screening of
Seven former college friends,
along with a few new friends,
gather for a weekend reunion at a
summer house in New Hampshire.
1979. 102 min. Rated R.
Get details of the full retrospective, find the address and where to park at

See you in there.


A tip of the hat, once again, to Sir Ruben for his nice piece about AMIGO:

Giant Robot and FilAm Arts are beating the kalatong and Winston Emano officially joins Cate Park as FOJS. (That would be Friends of John Sayles). It looks like we're going to get a great crowd at the AFI screening Nov 6 9:45pm.

First time ever a Filipino film has played at Grauman's Chinese Theater- how 'bout that?

Don't be discouraged if you have trouble getting tickets online. We are in a HUGE theater and there will be seats for everyone. Just show up.

That's Saturday, November 6, 9:45 pm.

See you there.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

In case you are too lazy to go to Amigo Facebook page

Leonard Ryan Cervantes   September 15 at 2:50pm    
Hi John,
My name is Len Cervantes -- I intro'd you guys to the people at the Kapisanan Arts Centre and many of those folks were in the audience last night. Many more plan on seeing you on Thursday.

I was too, and I realized too late, during the last 15 minutes in fact, that I was sitting RIGHT BESIDE YOU in the very last row of the theatre. I was fully meaning to turn to you and introduce myself, but once the credits began rolling you made your way to the front.

Wanted to drop you a note to say thanks, first of all, for Maggie's mention of the centre in her opening address. I'm one of the centre's founders and I love when word is spread about the work they do there. Which brings me to this note.

I will be honest, I went into Amigo fully prepared to witness yet another revisionist-history, pro-colonizer war propaganda film that was equal parts The Last Samurai and Saving Private Ryan. Great films unless its actually your people on the other side of the tank/rifle/samurai sword. Then its not so good.

What I got instead was the complete opposite -- a point of view that took into account the story of the Filipinos and not just the Americans (and Spanish) who landed there and changed everything. Of course, I enjoyed the film -- looks great, paces well and all... but I think that telling the story the way you did, coming from the perspective that you are coming from is nothing short of amazing. I wish more storytellers would strive for this.

As an 'honorary Filipino' now, I'm sure you're aware the effect that those years have had on the Philippines from then, all the way through WW2 and up until today. It's in the Filipino psyche and to a large extent has become a detriment. Your film says it too "these are children" as Padre said, and the Philippines is still having problems "growing up".

Just wanted to drop you a note and let you and Maggie and your team know, that for the next generations of Filipinos you will undoubtedly meet in your travels, your film is a great example of how we can look critically at history and learn from it. here's an example of the programming

You should be confident in knowing that the perspective that your film takes is in line with what we Filipino mentors are wanting to teach the youth who are growing up behind us. We have our hands full between accessing resources that aren't biased and moving past the religious cultural biases that our own parents harbor from their own years.

I'm glad we now have a film like 'Amigo' to tell us this story.

If you were around and your schedule wasn't so crazy, I would invite you to the centre for a 1 hour talk or something. I've got many questions and would like to share so many comments about shooting in the Philippines (I also worked for a time in Manila in commercials- likely we've frequented the same post facilities. I'm now a TV producer).

For now, I'd settle for having you in my contact list -- I'd love to help spread the word.

And I promise -- next time I end up sitting next to you at the back in one of your films -- I'll actually say hi.

Len Cervantes
Critical Filipino History
Location:Kapisanan Philippine Centre for Arts & Culture

THANKS, LEN. Maggie and John

Thursday, October 21, 2010

It's great to be understood

Boycotting Trends: Movie, Music & More Musings

Review: Amigo (2010) @ the London Film Festival

Posted by Alex Ramon at Monday, October 18, 2010

There are few filmmakers whose next movie I look forward to more than John Sayles, and no film I was happier to see on the London Film Festival programme than the director’s new work, Amigo. Sayles’s last film, Honeydripper, was a late addition to the LFF in 2007 where it received a rapturous reception that, unfortunately, didn’t translate into the box office performance the movie clearly deserved. For all of its astute analysis of racial politics in the Deep South, Honeydripper felt like a somewhat lighter work for Sayles, building to a memorable feel-good climax that the movie really earned.

Amigo, in contrast, seems a tougher proposition. Inspired by research that Sayles undertook for his Cuba-set novel Los Gusanos (1991), the new film takes as its subject the US’s next “adventure” after Cuba, anatomising tensions between Filipinos, Americans and Spanish during the Philippines-American War at the turn of the century. The Philippines were a Spanish colony from 1565, but Spanish neglect and refusal to grant political rights resulted in an increasing number of uprisings against colonial rule, culminating in the revolution of 1896-1898, which led to the proclamation of the first Republic by President Aguinaldo. Aguinaldo accepted help from the US against the Spanish, with American assurances of independence. However, after the Peace Treaty of Paris, the country was claimed and occupied by the US.

Sayles’s movie begins after the Spanish defeat and focuses on a village in Luzon in which American troops have established a garrison. The “head man” of the village Rafael (Joel Torre) and his wife find themselves working the land again, while their son flees to join his uncle who’s fighting with the guerrillas. The thoughtful American Lt. Compton (Garrett Dillahunt) tries to hold to his image of his side as democracy-spreading liberators. A Spanish priest, Padre Hidalgo (Yul Vazquez), is released from captivity to provide (often dubious) translations between the two sides. Chinese workers, digging shit-holes, find themselves targeted by the guerrillas, while the young American soldiers variously drink, hurl insults, make tentative connections, and begin to wonder what they’re doing in the country.

As ever, Sayles proves adept at locating the macrocosm in the microcosm in Amigo. I can think of few films that have better conveyed the intricacies of occupation from so many perspectives: those of the occupied, those of the occupiers and those caught in between. The tensions between these individuals (and in Sayles movies the characters really are individuals, not mere representatives of particular groups or factions) emerge in sharply written and beautifully acted scenes that chart the dailiness, the minutiae of occupation as compellingly as its more overt brutality. Parallels with more contemporary American “interventions” (Vietnam, Iraq) are inevitable - especially when the uncompromising General Hardacre (Sayles veteran Chris Cooper in what be termed the ‘Kris Kristofferson role’) announces that “We’re supposed to be winning hearts and minds here” - but they’re not hammered home. What Sayles achieves, as often, is a stimulating complexity and breadth. Notwithstanding a couple of awkward touches (notably a late skirmish that’s rather crudely inter-cut with a cock-fight), the pace and tone seem just right, and the movie is strikingly shot by Lee Briones-Meily. As good as Sayles’s dialogue always is (and the status of language during an occupation is one of the movie’s major concerns), Amigo proves equally eloquent in wordless scenes: soldiers struggling through the terrain, buffalo immersed in water, monsoon rain finally easing, a boy defiantly banging a bell.

Amigo, then, is possessed of all the Sayles virtues: intelligence, wit, sensitivity, soul, intimate focus and epic scope, with gripping personal stories leading into wider social and political areas. It’s value also lies in the fact that it's a  cinematic representation of a “forgotten war” which, according to Sayles, has had only one US film made about it, a 1939 Gunga Din knock-off entitled The Real Glory, which featured no Filipinos among the cast. “One thing a film can do is revisit official history and ask ‘Is that the whole story?’” said the director in the Q&A that followed yesterday’s screening. With Amigo, Sayles continues to interrogate the elisions and generalisations of the official version, producing yet another rich, absorbing, and deeply rewarding film as a result.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Best so far

I think yesterday's screening- Sunday 3:30pm at NFT 2- was the best AMIGO screening so far. The theater was packed and I did the intro because John was off doing press at the Directors Tea. That was fun for me since I know John's rap by now. Our respectful hosts tend to use words like "sadly" and "tragic" and I like to lift the tone with words like "sunshine" and "beautiful". With this movie, it's all about context.

When we returned for the Q+A, almost nobody left and the questions were the best ever.
A Filipino guy named Riley (he's from Cebu!) stood and spoke, warmly endorsing AMIGO and in a pretty long exchange with John,  told the audience a lot about the neglected history of the Philipppines from a Filipino's point-of-view.

It's so important for us with AMIGO to hear from Filipinos because Filipinos understand AMIGO like no one else. Thanks, Riley, for standing up (it's not easy!) in a crowd. Write to us on this blog or on Amigo Facebook, will you? I'd like more people to hear what you have to say about AMIGO.
Thank you, BFI/LFF, from John, me, and AMIGO.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ya-hoo! US Premiere of AMIGO

Come see AMIGO in LA, first screening in our home country. Usually by this time our friends have sat through many versions of our movie, in screeening rooms in New York or LA, or just in our garage/editing room. This time we cut the whole thing far away from our home base, in a house by the sea on the island of Bohol, and our US friends have been bugging me:"when are we going to see the Philippine movie?"


Free tickets will be available to AFI members on October 27 at noon and to the
general public on October 28 at noon. This year festival-goers also will have access
to a limited number of last-minute tickets at the day before the
screening or at the festival box office the day of the screening. Rush Lines will begin
forming one hour before the scheduled screening start times.

The AFI FEST box office is open online at and via telephone at
1.888.AFI FEST. The box office is also on-site at the Hollywood & Highland Center in

Book now to avoid disappointment.
Off to London, Maggie

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Making of Amigo October 12 on AMC

John Sayles, the prolific independent American director and screenwriter, has made literally dozens of films that have taken him to film festivals around the globe for decades. His entry at the Toronto International Film Festival this year was Amigo, a film set during the Philippine-American War. Sayles talked with me about how he shot the film under budget and time constraints, using a largely local Filipino crew.

Watch the attached video below to see a clip from my interview with Sayles. For more on the journey he and three of his fellow filmmakers took at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival, tune in Tue., Oct. 12, at 11PM | 10C, to watch the AMC News documentary Committed, directed by Morgan Spurlock and executive produced by Spurlock and yours truly.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Us at San Sebastian International Film Festival/Donostia Zinemaldia

This is the portrait taken each Festival, on the waterfront behind the Kursaal, which is the main theater. Aren't we a nice group? John, Joel, me, and Jemi. We had a good time.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Campaign

That's how John sees it: we are campaigning for AMIGO as we go around the world. TIFF was the first stop on the campaign, and then San Sebastian/Donostia.
No rubber chicken. Lots of handshakes. Kisses on both cheeks. At least twice a day delicious pintxos which is how you say tapas in Basque country.
Lots of fun with actors Jemi and Joel.
Votes of confidence from many, many fans.
Photos to follow from the campaign trail.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hearts and Minds

We've been hearing from people who are suprised by the contemporary language of Amigo and parallels are easily drawn to other US military engagements.  We asked our crack team to trace the concept of "hearts and minds" which John encountered in his copious research for his novel "A Moment in the Sun". Here are their findings:

HEARTS AND MINDS - "The knack of turning a phrase was explained by Theodore Roosevelt to his young aide, Lieutenant Douglas MacArthur, in 1906. MacArthur had asked the President to what he attributed his popularity, and Roosevelt replied, 'To put into words what is in their hearts and minds but not in their mouths.' ('Hearts and minds' later became a slogan of sorts, as what had to be won in Vietnam." From a section on slogans in "Safire's New Political Dictionary" by William Safire (Random House, New York, 1993). 

And from another reference: "The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." The Bible, Authorized Version, 1611: Phillippians, Chapter 4, Verse 7. From " The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations," Fifth Edition, edited by Elizabeth Knowles (Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York, 2001)
Another reference says, "A reader sent columnist William Safire antecedents from the Bible, a letter John Adams wrote in 1818, and a conversation Teddy Roosevelt had with Douglas MacArthur. Reporters and military officers in Vietnam labeled the 'winning hearts and minds' approach 'WHAM.' The Green Berets had their own version: 'Get them by the balls, and their hearts and minds will follow.'" "Quote Verifier: Who said What, Where, and When" by Ralph Keyes (St. Martin's Press, New York, 2006) Page 236.
[source: ]

And this reference regarding John Adams: "The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations." So wrote John Adams, looking back on the American Revolution from the perspective of 1818. The date when the revolution of hearts and minds began was Jan. 30, 1750, and the leader of the incipient revolt was Jonathan Mayhew, the minister who preached what was perhaps the most important sermon in American history.
[source: ]

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Then we're off to London!

AMIGO is among the lucky films to be selected for some of the most prestigious film festivals in the whole wide world. First, Toronto, then San Sebastiàn, and now London Film Festival. Check out the link at to read the lucid description of AMIGO by our good friend Geoff Andrew and enjoy as I did the description "typically pertinent"!

These are the dates and times. Tell all your friends. Book now. We'll see you there.

Friday, October 15 21:00 Vue Screen 3

Saturday, October 16 13:00 Vue Screen 3

Sunday, October 17 15:30 NFT2

Next Stop San Sebastiàn

Have I already said this is one of our very favorite festivals? And I just learned in Toronto that this year is the final year as Director for our friend Mike Olaciregui (who happens to be John's birthday-mate). Our fabulous PR Anabel Mateo just wrote to say that the Consul from the Philippines to Spain will attend the premiere. Maybe he wants to meet Joel Torre! We are excited that Joel and his wife Cristy will be walking the red carpet with us. Look for an interview with Joel coming from SSIFF with the ABS-CBN Filipino Channel.

And if you can get to the festival to catch AMIGO here's the schedule:

23 - 22:00 Kursaal, 1 Sección Oficial AMIGO

24 - 23:00 Teatro Victoria Eugenia Sección Oficial AMIGO

25 - 22:00 Antiguo Berri, 2 Sección Oficial AMIGO

We're in Competition!

Heading home

Home! For four nights in a row. TIFF was really good. AMIGO shone in two public screenings and more than one person called it "handsome". I am proud to share that praise with Lee (our DP), Rodell (our Production Designer), Gino (our Costume Designer) and our Richard Francis our color grader, among so many who helped with handsome-ness!
We leave on Monday for San Sebastian. We'll be in touch!

Our first reviews

Whew! We try not to mind too much and after all, by the time the movie plays at a festival, we have done our best. Still...
This is a nice one, from The Hollywood Reporter, Ray Bennett:

TORONTO -- John Sayles' "Amigo" is set during the U.S. incursion in the Philippines in 1900, but the parallels with Afghanistan and Iraq today are clear. It's an impressive movie, but the indie filmmaker has little to add to the debate beyond the eternal truth that the innocent always suffer most.

Good looking, atmospheric and steeped in the culture of the rural Philippines of the time, "Amigo" follows what happens when a U.S. platoon occupies the village of San Isidro deep in the rice paddies far from Manila.

It's a familiar tale, but the setting is different, and Sayles tells it with his usual cinematic vigor and attention to small detail. It will appeal to audiences interested in well-told history, and the film should be of great interest to educators as a way of imparting the everlasting tragedy of such conflicts. With much of the dialogue in Spanish, it also should travel well.

With Spain and the U.S. at war, the Philippines declared itself an independent republic in 1898. American troops moved in and the conflict in the Philippines lasted longer than the Spanish-American War.

When Lt. Compton (Garret Dillahunt) marches into the village of San Isidro, most of the young men already have joined the rebels. Village headman Rafael (Joel Torre) has incarcerated the remaining Spaniards including Padre Hildago (Yul Vazquez) and declares himself a friend, an amigo, to the invaders.

Rafael's brother Simon (Ronnie Lazaro), however, is leader of the local rebels, and his son has run off to join them. Strict but compassionate, Compton strives to win the hearts and minds of the villagers even as the conflict escalates elsewhere.

When the rebels across the country prove intransigent, U.S. leaders dictate a change from carrot to stick, and Compton's senior office, Col. Hardacre (Chris Cooper), orders the lieutenant to make war.

Cattle are slain, fields ruined and curfews imposed; anyone who helps the rebels will be shot. Meanwhile, the rebels issue their own demands that mean anyone who aids the enemy also will be executed. Just like the locals in Afghanistan and many other places, the villagers are caught between a rock and a hard place.

Sayles depicts the young U.S. soldiers as a rough and tender mix, with most having learned to demonize the enemy even as the Filipinos they meet turn out to be friendly and cooperative. Tension mounts as the rebels gear up their attacks, violence increases, and the village leader is caught between conflicting obligations.

Dillahunt ("Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles") makes a strong impression as an officer who is at heart a civilian house-builder. He strives for harmony and peacekeeping while following strict orders. Vazquez makes his sanctimonious priest sardonic and merciless, and Torre has an everyman appeal as a leader trying to do the right thing.

Production design by Rodell Cruz gets the most of the sumptuous Philippines locations that make a luxuriant impression in Lee Briones-Meily's muscular cinematography.

Venue: Toronto International Film Festival
Production: Pinoy Pictures
Cast: Chris Cooper, Garret Dillahunt, Joel Torre, Yul Vazquez
Director-screenwriter-editor: John Sayles
Producer: Maggie Renzi
Director of photography: Lee Briones-Meily
Production designer: Rodell Cruz
Costume designer: Gino Gonzales
Sales: Rezo
No rating, 128 minutes

9/13/2010 TIFF '10 Review: 'Amigo' An Observational, Powerful Film Linking America's Political Past & Present

If Robert Redford's "The Conspirator" was the strident and overbearing example of how to draw links between events of the past to issues of today, John Sayles' "Amigo" is the antidote. Using the tail-end of the American-Phillipine war as a backdrop, Sayles does what Redford can't. Forgoing character lessons, big speeches and a single-minded tack, Sayles' film is a complex and organically built work that coaxes meaning out of the situations it builds rather than putting the politics first and constructing a story around it.

If you forgot or skipped your history class on the war, not to worry. While Sayles drops us right into the jungle, in the midst of the ongoing conflict, his microcosm approach doesn't rely on audiences knowing the ins and outs of war. We begin with an army unit, led by Lt. Compton (Garret Dillahunt), occupying a Phillipine village to primarily sever any ties the village might have with a guerrilla rebel campaign that is still being fought against the Americans, and to secondly instill the supposed values of democracy among the people. The Americans are assisted by a local friar who acts as translator, but the village leader Rafael (Joel Torre) retains his position as a decision maker in the village to help. Unbeknownst to the Americans, Rafael's brother is part of the resistance group that is residing in the nearby hills, and via some connections, continues to receive food and supplies from the village.

From this point Sayles unfolds his story with patience and an observational eye. The Americans, the villagers and the resistance each have their story and point of view told. We begin to see the wicked dance being played by everyone involved and the compromises made to both hang on to their beliefs, while maintaining the intangible balance that keeps them alive. Sure, the resistance fighters attempt to take out Rafael as he is a symbol of Phillipine citizens co-existing with their occupiers, and the Americans, particularly in the opening frames of the films, are portrayed as back country hicks. But as we sift through their stories and as their stay extends in the area a great picture of the character and emotion running through each side comes to the fore. And rightly, Sayles equally judges as well as embraces, the views from all sides.
It will be interesting to see if the film gets picked up, and if it does, don't expect it at your mulitplex. While the film does boast a few names that are better known as faces (Dillahunt; DJ Qualls in a small role as a communications officer and Chris Cooper in a smaller role as a Col. Hardacre overseeing the whole operation in the area) the film is largely led by actors unknown on North American shores. But known or not, Torre shines as Rafael, and as a good portion of the film follows the events that unfold as they affect him, he steps up to the plate to carry the film. And to come back to Dillahunt, his Lt. Compton isn't just a mean American occupier; he struggles between the word of command and doing what's right, transmitting it movingly and affectingly. It's another fine performance from an actor who is often under-sung.
John Sayles continues to inspire with his dedication to independent filmmaking, even if his audiences, at least these days, continue to get smaller (did anyone see "Honeydripper"?). But as his films face smaller distribution and almost non-existent promotion, it's easy to forget his original voice and what a gifted filmmaker he is. While it doesn't quite rank as one of his best films, it does nearly make it (the closing shot/freeze frame is one of the best we've seen all year). But will audiences be patient enough for it or distributors for that matter? The packed screening we were at got spacious as a small but significant number of people bailed on the film during the first hour. But for those who stayed, they were rewarded with a much richer experience than Redford's bigger budget, but definitely more amateurish production. "Amigo" isn't a critique or an editorial but almost a report; one that looks back into the past to see what we've done and what should be changed, for both America and the world, to move forward. [B]

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Off to Toronto

It's a beautiful Fall day as I write from Clinton Corners, the place we call home, but we're so seldom there these days. I've been checking the weather so I can plan my wardrobe for TIFF:doesn't look good! I was hoping to wear my new Festival dress, designed by Gino Gonzales, but I have a feeling I'll be packing the Manila trouser and blouse combos my shopping assistants Melany and Cheska helped me to find.

Morgan Spurlock and a doc team are going to follow us around TIFF, profiling an "established" filmmaker as well as two who are new to TIFF, for a 15 minute piece to be shown on AMC. Morgan's producer Mala tells me this will be our 10th film at TIFF!

Thank you Piers. Thank you Noah. Thank you Cameron.

More soon from the chilly North.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

We're home.

After over nine months in the Philippines, with only one 6-week trip back to the US, we are home. For both John and me it has been a great experience, living in the Philippines, learning our way around a new culture, and making true friends. We have gotten really attached and I found the only way to leave without tears was to remember that we'll be back.
By February 1, 2011! We've already started planning some special event previews of AMIGO, in cities around the R.P,to happen in the first 3 weeks of Febtuary. And the first of the special event premieres will be in... BOHOL, where else?
We left Manila with smiles on our faces. We had a nice despedida (goodbye party) at JT's Manukan Grill, Gilmour St, and had a chance to say goodbye to some of our Baryo friends. We said goodbye to Stone House where we had such a good stay. Goodbye to all our Road Runner friends who made Post doable and fun. And we shipped the first two gorgeous prints (thank you SQ and Elmer) to our subtitler Jerry at LVT in New York.
All done, right on time, and AMIGO is a wonderful film. MATEWAN fans get ready: AMIGO is as good as MATEWAN, and a lot like it, in a totally different part of the world.
See you on the festival circuit. Maggie

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Quick Sidenote: PIRANHA 3D is a fish of a different color.

So we've gotten a lot of questions about whether John had any involvement in Piranha 3D.  Here's John's response!

"Same fish, different filmmakers. Haven’t even seen a screenplay for PIRANHA 3D, and didn’t get even ‘story by’ credit so I imagine it’s a totally new deal. I didn’t have anything to do with PIRANHA II, the SPAWNING that James Cameron directed, either. Since the original PIRANHA was a spin-off of JAWS, maybe this new one is a spin-off of JAWS III. Or maybe TENTACLES. Or maybe ORCA II. Or maybe MOBY DICK--"

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Amigo Site at TIFF

Official Description

An American invasion of a foreign country. A battle for hearts and minds. A pacification programme to quell an insurgency. Guerrilla warfare. Firefights. Sound familiar? Well, yes and no. Über-indie American filmmaker John Sayles winds the clock back to 1900 and the US occupation of the Philippines in his brave new film, Amigo. Sayles finds many parallels behind this little-remembered event in history and current events in Iraq and Afghanistan. As always, this most singular of directors provides a clear, lucid and dramatically compelling portrait and analysis of American colonization and the latent imperialism behind some of its wars. The film revolves around the occupation by a squad of U.S. soldiers of a small, rural village. Headed by a respected elder, whom the Yankees refer to as “Amigo,” the villagers are forced to deal with this foreign presence as rules are set, curfews introduced and small attempts at democracy initiated. But the most significant tension in the film lies in the village’s relationship with a rebel group leading the resistance to the occupation. Amigo’s brother is the rebel leader, and his son runs off to join them, so he constantly finds himself torn between balancing what is right for the village and what this means to his family. The joys of the film are many. Determined to remain true to historic recreation, the film has the ring of authenticity. But Sayles also excels in giving complexity to the human dilemmas that form the core of the narrative. As Amigo struggles to make certain decisions, the US lieutenant in charge of the village has to deal with the insensitive arrogance of his commanding officer. While the junior officer tries to win hearts and minds, his superior prefers the heavy hand of threat and torture. As the film moves towards its climax, all the various strands of the story converge to provide a unique and telling culmination. Thoughtful and provocative, John Sayles is still the conscience of American cinema. 

Piers Handling

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Are we in Mexico?

No, we are in Divisoria!
Like in the best mercados in Mexico, in Divisoria, Manila, you can buy anything.
Like angel wings. Where did you think they came from? And fake leis and masks and shields and helmets for a Moro Moro play. All under one roof.  Made right in front of you, hecho a mano.
It was Fiona Malca who brought me to Divisoria. Here she is with two boys from the stall carrying the baskets she bought for a Rosh Hashanah surprise. Nothing you can't get in Divisoria, for any occasion.
Including rambutan.