The world of exploitation cinema is a wild and weird on as we all know. The history of the strange side of cinema from the around the world is filled with unique individuals but one of the most unique is Weng Weng. Star of several films made in the Philippines in the late 70’s and early 80’s, Weng Weng is just 2’9″ tall, the shortest lead actor ever according to the Guinness Book of World Records. I would believe it. Not only is he the lead actor in the films he starred in, but they were all action films with outrageous (read: dangerous) stunts, all of which he did himself.As the documentary points out, where could the possibly find a double for him anyway?
Not much was known about the actor despite his cult appeal and broad fanbase around the globe. Enter Andrew Leavold, an Australian bloke obsessed with Weng Weng. The diminutive star stole his heart and over many years of extolling Weng Weng’s films to the masses of Australia, he wanted to know more. He set out on his quest to find out everything he could about the curious star.
The Search for Weng Weng is a documentary of that quest for knowledge. It’s a quest that takes him to many different parts of the Philippines and one that puts him into contact with a wide range of Philippine film stars, stunt men, directors, financiers, history buffs, and even a few surprises that i won’t spoil here. It’s a quest that went in ways i’m sure Andrew Leavold never would have guessed, i sure didn’t. His interview subjects were all very open about the industry and about Weng Weng himself and we get a rare look into a world that no longer exists. Some of these folks are getting up there in age so this may have been the last time for them to tell their tale of Weng Weng. This documentary is truly a preservation of unique information that could have only been unearthed by going to the source. It’s a bold move for director Andrew Leavold and we’re all the better for it.
The documentary if fascinating and chock full of unique knowledge and candid interviews. We go along on the journey with him and it was an exciting one. The film isn’t without faults however but thankfully they are all technical (interviews filmed far too close the subject, mixed aspect ratios) but the storytelling is strong and the content is there. It’s a very well done documentary once I got past some of the minor technical issues. And they are minor. Every interview is subtitled and the audio is good throughout which for me can be a real killer if the audio stinks. Thankfully here, it’s crystal clear.
Andrew Leavold obviously truly knows his stuff as well. He’s got Tarantino levels of film knowledge and i would love to see him make another film, perhaps specifically about the Filipino film industry. Yes, i know there is already a doc about the subject, but there’s more than enough film history there for multiple docs on the subject. I truly hope that this is a debut film and not the end of his documentary legacy. He knows his stuff and gained some really great interviews for this doc. He’s got the knack for sure and the guts to go out there and knock on every door until all answers are found. I highly recommend this doc, its a great love letter to Weng Weng and to funky exploitation cinema. Go out and get it.