AMIGO in Cebu, 2/10 to 2/11

John Sayles’ historical independent film “AMIGO” was screened in Cebu last February 10 and 11.

SineBuano thanks member Daniel Egos for pitching in with our Amigo filmmaker-friends through the screenings and related events, for his write-up about the experience to follow and to Mary Lizbeth for the photos.

Daniel Egos and Mary Lizbeth (on the right) hosting the open forum for the AMIGO cast and crew: the film’s director/writer/editor John Sayles (third from right), producer Maggie Renzi (fourth from right) and actor Joel Torre (left).

AMIGO IN CEBU by Daniel Egos

I don’t know how to begin telling my great experience with the movie “AMIGO” by John Sayles but I guess the best place would be right at the beginning. I volunteered as a marshal during the Cebu leg of the Lakbay Amigo Tour along with a friend of mine, Liz. What I first thought would be a “so and so” experience turned out to be an inspiring experience for me and Liz.

In my role as one of the marshals during the film’s screenings, I got to interact with the audience and the rare opportunity to meet and spend some time with a few of the people who made AMIGO possible.

I got to meet Joel Torre (Rafael Dakanay), John Arcilla (Saturnino, Rafael’s rival and brother-in-law), Maggie Renzi (producer), and John Sayles (screenwriter, film editor, and director of AMIGO).

Though the audience have had the opportunity to ask questions and meet and greet the film’s cast and crew after each show, I consider myself honored, I got a close and personal experience with them and the people of Origin 8 Media (the company distributing AMIGO in the Philippines). I hosted the open forum after each screening on the second day; I talked to them during the welcome dinner, sponsored by Cebu Normal University.

AMIGO was warmly welcomed in Cebu, with the support of USC (University of San Carlos) and CNU (Cebu Normal University). CNU booked the first day of screening as part of their centennial celebration and USC booked the second day of screening, with the recommendation of their History department.

AMIGO is a film by John Sayles that tells of one barrio during the American occupation of the Philippines. It centers mostly on the interaction between the American soldiers, the captive Spanish friar, and the village headman or Cabeza de Barangay, Rafael Dakanay (played by Joel Torre). He is known as “Amigo” to the Americans for when asked for his name, Rafael did not know what was being asked of him since it was in English, replied in Spanish that he was an “amigo” or friend.

The movie goes on to show the different effects of American occupation on the barrio’s people and the weight it has put on Rafael for his role of being a pacifier; he has to keep his people safe from any potential harm from the American forces and at the same time, appease the Filipino rebel guerillas who have asked for support from his barrio. The price of not assisting the Filipino freedom fighters is death as ordered by Emilio Aguinaldo.

From watching the film, I could say that in terms of quality, the American independently-produced film Amigo left big-time Filipino productions in the dust. You might say I’m being biased or accuse me of crab mentality; however the only foreign influence brought into the film was brought by director John Sayles and Maggie Renzi (the producer who also happens to be Sayles’ wife).

A few members of the cast were Americans for the appropriate parts (the colonel was played by Chris Cooper, an Academy-award winning actor) but the rest of the film’s cast and many of the crew were Filipinos hired in the country.

From that, one could come to the positive conclusion that the Philippine movie industry has great potential, if it became more organized, more creative, and more diverse instead of what it is normally, celebrity or personality driven.

I cannot say that I was “star struck”. I hardly recognized John Arcilla and vaguely recognized Joel Torre. I was more amazed at their acting skills than their names, especially the performance of Joel Torre (Rafael Dakanay) since it was simply sterling. Both John and Joel were easy to approach. As a aspiring filmmaker/director myself, I was most drawn to John Sayles and Maggie Renzi. I wanted to get into the mind of John Sayles and know his story as a filmmaker.

Daniel and Liz with American indie filmmakers John Sayles and Maggie Rezzi.

I asked John, if he attended film school and does one need to attend film school to become a filmmaker? John said that it’s not mandatory for a filmmaker to attend film school as he himself is a psychology graduate and not a film school graduate. All one needs to do is go out and make films to become a filmmaker.

Coming from one who has been called the Godfather of American Independent Films, John’s answer serves as an inspiration to all aspiring filmmakers, whether they are able to attend film school or not.

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