Jul 25
AMIGO: FIL-AMERICAN FRIENDSHIP BASED ON JOHN SAYLES’ POINT OF VIEW by Isabel Sebullen  |  Posted in Articles  |  on Mon, Jul 25, 2011

The questions that came to my mind after watching AMIGO at Trinoma last Friday, July 8 were: What if the story was written and directed by a Filipino? Will it be presented differently in a movie? Will it attract movie goers?

The number of film viewers who watched the film was not even one-tenth of the theater capacity. This can be attributed to lack of TV advertisements, or maybe because the movie was shown simultaneously with Transformers 3 and the star-studded Temptation Island. Amigo got a very good review from several film critics, but it was not enough to lure people to watch such a very good film.


courtesy of www.movieinsider.com

Philippine Inquirer’s columnist Lito Zulueta described the film as brave, provocative and insightfully funny. Zulueta did not elaborate what is insightfully funny about the film, perhaps the part where a young American was courting a young Filipina who did not understand what he was saying. This subplot was one of those events in the story. Perhaps the writer did not consider this subplot worth giving a conclusion. But ordinary film viewers would ask: What happened to the two of them? Were they able to get married or not?

Another subplot was the accidental killing of the woman’s child who was wounded by a stray bullet. These subplots were able to tell viewers the realities of the war in the 1900s. No more no less, it is simply telling us these things happened that time. John Sayles as a writer did not conclude whether it is right or wrong to make these people subservient, he simply tells the story and it is up to us to draw conclusions.


Joel Torre, Chris Cooper, Garret Dillahunt, Ronnie Lazaro, Rio Locsin, Dane De Hann, DJ Qualls, Yul Vasquez (photo courtesy of www.movieinsider.com)

American film writer, editor and director John Sayles gave us a glimpse of what happened during the first Filipino-American relationship in the 1900, right after the Spanish colonization ended.

In his interpretation of history, he wrote about the central character of the story, the cabeza named Rafael Dacanay (portrayed by actor Joel Torre) who was torn between choosing the rebels and cooperating with the Americans. In the film, Dacanay ended up being killed. John Sayles was successful in showing the torment ongoing within the central character (making his village peaceful amidst the presence of the enemies, and being suspected by his own brother and his comrades as facilitating their capture).

There was a unique presentation of how Julio and the rebels communicate, by putting their messages inside an empty coconut shell. Story telling in this movie is subtle, not hysterical.

Amidst turmoil being felt after invaded by a new colonizer, Filipinos in this film appear to be vibrant and alive, in spite of the danger of being under a new breed of colonizers. The presence of the Americans made a difference in their way of living, another adjustment, and new rules to follow.

The film, as what Jeffrey O. Valisno puts in his movie review: Those who are used to watching the movie spoon-feed the audience with all the information about the story might need to exert some effort to follow Amigo’s plot in the beginning, but those who are patient will be rewarded with a great movie. Those who are used to a Filipino way of story-telling may find this film not worth watching.

What really intrigues me was the ending of the film showing rebels lining up for their salaries. Filipino rebels, at the end, accepted their fate of serving the American soldiers, bowing to a powerful country like America.

It ended though it is not clear what Sayles is trying to say in this movie. But what is clear is the American’s brand of story telling: it does not thrive on emotion, but rather on realities, it does not conclude for you, you must understand and conclude yourself. You need to use your intellect to mentally process the message.

Amigo is a kind of story telling that differs from the “formula movie” we were used to watch in Filipino films. For so many decades, these formula movies reap success, earning million of pesos, but they did not change the way we think, the way we nurture our culture, nor show us our real worth.

I do pray Amigo will be appreciated when it will be shown in the United States this coming August. The number of Filipinos abroad who will watch the film will tell us whether they can relate to the story or not, or after so many years of colonization, we Filipinos, still cannot answer the question of WHO we really are.


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