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

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.