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

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