THE SEARCH FOR WENG WENG
Screening, Book Launch & Talk
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A former cult video store manager turned guerrilla film-maker and B film detective goes looking for the two-foot-nine James Bond of the Philippines.
It sounds like the bizarre plotline of one of Leavold’s most favoured cult films, but in the case of his documentary feature The Search For Weng Weng (2013), reality does indeed kick fiction in the nuts, then runs between its legs.
With Weng Weng’s real story buried under more than thirty years of faulty memories, urban myths and forgotten pop culture, it seemed a Herculean task. Was he really a black belt, super-spy, stunt king, ladies’ man, living saint, and plaything of the Marcos family? What was his real name, how many films did he make, and was he possibly still alive?
It took Leavold seven years to complete the film, against seemingly impossible odds, and then screen the film all over the world, including Weng Weng’s front yard.
But that was just the start of the story.
This book is the definitive search for Weng Weng, an even wilder and woollier tale told by the film-maker himself, as he travels from Imelda Marcos’ birthday party to the poorest slums of Manila, on the trail of one the Philippines’ most unlikeliest heroes – and most heartbreaking stories.
Weng Weng’s tale of exploitation, greed, and fragile humanity is pieced together fragment by tantalizing fragment, all the while revealing a detailed, never-before-told history of the Filipino Action Film, as told by a cast of actors, stuntmen, Weng Weng’s family and colleagues, historians, midget waiters, and Imelda herself.
Plunging head-first into the heart and soul of the Philippines’ culture and history, Leavold also tells his own story of transforming his own life from fan to film-maker, all the while experiencing the most surreal adventure of a lifetime.
It’s part detective story and midget bio, part gonzo travelogue, part Filipino B Film history lesson, and part magical Quest for the Holy Grail – if the Grail is a two foot nine James Bond of the Philippines.
“The Search For Weng Weng”, 242 pages with illustrations, is published by Melbourne’s LedaTape Organization
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Andrew Leavold owned and managed Trash Video, the largest cult video rental store in Australia, from 1995 to 2010. He is also a film-maker, published author, researcher, film festival curator, musician, and above all, unrepentant and voracious fan of the pulpier aspects of genre cinema. His writing has been published globally in mainstream magazines, academic journals and underground cinema fanzines, for the last two decades. This is his first book.
Leavold toured the world with his feature length documentary The Search For Weng Weng (2013). His ten years of research on genre filmmaking in the Philippines formed the basis of Mark Hartley's documentary Machete Maidens Unleashed! (released internationally in 2010), on which Leavold is also Associate Producer, and he has since been recognized both in the Philippines and abroad as the foremost authority in his area of expertise, teaching Philippine film history at university level in Australia, the United States, and throughout the Philippines. Leavold teamed with Daniel Palisa to co-direct The Last Pinoy Action King (2015), both a feature-length documentary on the late Filipino action idol Rudy Fernandez, and a dissection of film royalty, politics, privilege, idolatry, and the Philippines’ pyramid of power.
He is currently shooting two new feature-length documentaries – The Most Beautiful Creatures On The Skin Of The Earth (also with Palisa), the third in his Filipino “Guns, Goons And Gold” trilogy, about erotic cinema under Marcos; and Pub, a history of Melbourne’s mythic St Kilda music scene as told through its most outrageous progeny, musician and artist Fred Negro. Both films are due for release in 2018.