US filmmaker explores Fil-Am war in ‘Amigo’

By: - Reporter
/ 08:06 PM July 05, 2011

Village girl Azalea (Lady Jane Rellita) is the love interest of a young American soldier

“Amigo,” a John Sayles film that has reaped acclaim in several international film festivals, explores the beginnings of the “long, complex relationship” between the Philippines and the United States through what the acclaimed US indie scriptwriter and filmmaker calls “an action-packed, dramatic and heart-moving epic.”

Set during the Philippine-American War that erupted in 1899, the film centers on Rafael Dacanay (Joel Torre), the cabeza  (head) of Barrio San Isidro, who is torn between keeping his village safe and obeying the colonizers.


According to Sayles, this conflict was based on what several Filipino cabezas really went through at that time. “[The story] is set in a very specific time and place — northern Luzon in the year 1900,” he wrote in the film’s study guide. “Through the Treaty of Paris in 1898, the United States ‘bought’ the Philippines from Spain for $20 million.”

He said the scenario was the result of a series of events, among them the decline of the Spanish regime in the Philippines, the uprising of the revolutionary group Katipunan and the signing of the treaty.


Sayles, one of the prime movers of independent cinema in the United States, has directed 17 films, including “Matewan” (1987), “Passion Fish” (1992) and “Lone Star” (1996).

“Amigo,” his latest, drew raves in international festivals in Toronto, Canada and San Sebastian, Spain. It opens today at SM malls in North Edsa, Megamall, Manila, Mall of Asia, Bacoor, Cebu and Davao, as well as at Gateway Mall, Robinsons Galleria, Robinsons Ermita, Glorietta 4 and Trinoma.

Screenings in North America are scheduled next month.

Advance screening

On June 28, an advance screening was held at the TriNoma Mall in Quezon City, simultaneous with the unveiling of an exhibit of costumes used in the film. The exhibit, titled “Veiled Memories of a Forsaken Past,” showcased the artistry of costume designer Gino Gonzales. It was on view at the TriNoma cinema lobby until yesterday.

“Amigo” received a PG-13 rating from the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board and was endorsed by the Department of Education. It has been touring schools and universities in Cebu, Davao, Baguio and Bacolod since February this year.

The film also stars Oscar award-winning actor Chris Cooper, Garret Dillahunt (“The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles”), Yul Vazquez (“War of the Worlds,” “American Gangsters”) and DJ Qualls (“Road Trip”). It also features Filipino actors Bembol Roco, Rio Locsin, Ronnie Lazaro, John Arcilla, Pen Medina, Irma Adlawan and Bodgie Pascua.


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TAGS: Amigo, Cinemas, Entertainment, History, John Sayles
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