The Search for Weng Weng DVD Review
Written by ZigZag
DVD released by Wild Eye Releasing
Directed by Andrew Leavold
2007, 92 minutes, Not Rated
DVD released on November 8th, 2016
2’9” actor/ stuntman Weng Weng stars in director Eddie Nicart’s For Y’ur Height Only (1981), a far out spin on the James Bond film franchise. This wacky picture has something for everyone including action, suspense, romance, espionage and a man under three feet tall in the leading role of Agent 00. Several bootleg copies have circulated the globe for years and when Australian video store owner Andrew Leavold saw it, he became obsessed. Determined to track down more information on the movie and its diminutive star, Leavold spent the next decade researching the history of cinema in the Philippines. Unable to get specific information regarding Weng Weng, the aspiring filmmaker makes his way to Manila in hopes of creating a documentary of his quest, realizing his efforts with The Search for Weng Weng (2007).
His passion for the subject matter is never called into question as he clearly is a man possessed by the need to answer the questions he has gathered over the years. Some of the material presented, however, is a bit suspect as he repeatedly lands incredible leads by sheer coincidence. For example, his first stop at the Filipino Film Center yields a chance parking lot run in with Edgardo Vinarao, editor of all of Weng Weng’s films. Our guide’s luck continues as he joins a reunion of actors and stuntmen who worked on these movies and in addition to hearing all of their entertaining stories, the group is soon joined by elusive director Eddie Nicart himself. Before long, Leavold has tracked down the little actor’s family and at the one hour mark the documentary takes a wild left turn for an unexpected interview with the most famous supporter of Weng Weng’s work. The amount of access the film crew was granted in this segment alone is completely jaw-dropping and makes the film a must-see.
The Search for Weng Weng excels in the challenge of unveiling details of the country’s now defunct film industry. Leavold and his team do an excellent job conveying the level of stardom of the beloved actor. Their research reveals the number of projects he worked on that have never been seen outside of Filipino movie theatres. The documentary is filled with archival footage and photographs of Weng Weng’s work, some in better condition than others. Everyone interviewed has nothing but kind words about the actor, but there is some question as to whether he had been mistreated and possibly denied some earned income. Not everyone involved in the industry is on hand as sadly the writer/ producers have either passed away or declined to be interviewed for this documentary. You don’t need to have seen any of his movies to enjoy this picture, but when it is over you may find yourself on your own quest to find them.
Video and Audio:
The documentary receives a non-anamorphic transfer that preserves the original 1.85 aspect ratio. Picture quality is never terrific but the interviews are well framed and offer relatively sharp images. Much of the doc is filled with film clips that were shot and appear in 1.33:1 full frame. The shifting aspect ratio is never jarring or distracting from the information presented.
The film is largely a collection of talking-head interviews mixed with tinny movie clips, so the 2.0 stereo mix is perfectly sufficient. Not everyone speaks English in this film and the ones that do frequently have thick accents that make things a bit difficult to follow from time to time. English subtitles are a welcome addition here and the captions are clear and easy to read.
Andrew Leavold delivers an informative audio commentary that was itself years in the making, and the director seems thrilled to finally be able to record it. Definitely take the time to check it out.
A pair of extended interviews, one with Weng Weng’s brother (9 minutes) and the other with Eddie Nicart (50 minutes) offer additional information via raw footage of their segments with the latter being more in-depth.
The directors Q&A from the Sydney Underground Film Festival (2014) is an audio recording that runs an undetermined length that cannot be scanned ahead or backward.
A bonus interview with an unbelievably thin man named Polito (17 minutes) is informative and entertaining and I wish it remained in the film.
A music video for the song “I Love Weng Weng” (3 minutes) features a Filipino man walking the streets playing a banjo while repeatedly singing the repetitive title phrase. Sure there are photo montages and clips from the movies, but I defy you to make it through the entire video.
Sadly, there is not a trailer for this documentary, but as a consolation prize we get a preview of something called Gone Lesbo Gone. This was Andrew Leavold’s previous film, a documentary about an unseen film from director Doris Wishman (I Dismember Mama).