Cinema Detroit co-owner and programmer Paula Guthat says, "Andrew's work reflects the passion for cinema that we ourselves share, and this event is a prime example of the truly distinctive offerings we bring to the City and the metro area. The Agent Double-00 Feature is an opportunity to get to know another film tradition and have some good bad-movie fun. Both films in the double feature are inspired by love for film -- one by that of Filipino producers who wanted to make their own James Bond movies; the other by an Australian who was so intrigued by those movies that he in turn made a movie about them. It's a truly unique cinematic experience illustrating the passion for movies that exists all over the planet."
But who the heck is Weng Weng, and why should you care that anyone searched for him? Quite simply, THE SEARCH FOR WENG WENG is an unbelievable, fascinating true story that ultimately draws profound conclusions about the influence of popular culture and the nature of fame..
Trailer: THE SEARCH FOR WENG WENG
From the late '70s through the early '80s, a homegrown film industry flourished in the Philippines. Inspired by Hollywood in general and the success of locally-filmed Apocalypse Now in particular, Filipino filmmakers responded with films of their own, churning out up to 300 a year at the peak of production.
Possibly one of the most unlikely leading men to emerge was Weng Weng, the 2' 9" action star usually cast as a James-Bond-style assassin in a bunch of low-budget, but nonetheless very successful, films. One of these was, FOR Y'UR HEIGHT ONLY, a Bond parody with Weng in the lead role. The film made him a superstar in the Philippines, and eventually, years later, it was the film that inspired Andrew Leavold to begin his quest.
Trailer: FOR Y'UR HEIGHT ONLY
Beginning in the 1990s, Leavold grew to know and love Weng Weng's work while owning and managing Trash Video, Brisbane Australia's version of Royal Oak's late lamented Thomas Video. Leavold is a published author, researcher, film festival curator, musician, TV presenter, and occasional filmmaker. But above all, he is an unrepentant and voracious fan of eccentric and lowbrow cinema.
He began to wonder about the diminutive actor whose fame apparently faded as quickly as it exploded. Who was Weng Weng, what was his real name, how did he get into movies, and where was he now? Although the actor had a sort of presence on the Internet, no one seemed to know anything else about him, and Leavold's curiosity was piqued.
He traveled to the Philippines, where the trail was initially cold. As his investigation necessarily widened, it developed into something more - a look at over 30 years of Filipino pop culture, and how it reflects both their country at large and the exported culture of the US.
WENG WENG director-producer-writer Andrew Leavold (right) with co-writer and co-producer Daniel Palisa (left) and Cel the jeepney driver in Laoag, Philippines
Along the way, THE SEARCH FOR WENG WENG introduces us to a wide variety of colorful characters, from Weng Weng's sole surviving relative, to Filipino directors, actors, and producers, and in a truly surreal sequence, former first lady Imelda Marcos.
Interestingly, during the '80s, Weng Weng was a frequent visitor of the Marcos family at the Presidential Palace. At some point, he was designated an honorary Secret Agent by future President General Ramos, and was presented with an official badge and a 25-calibre pistol. This act may have been the direct inspiration for the second part of the double feature, FOR Y'UR HEIGHT ONLY, the James Bond spoof that must be seen to be believed. Guns, gadgets and girls...all done with a Filipino flair.
WENG WENG Agent Double-00 FeatureScreening of updated documentary THE SEARCH FOR WENG WENG and Filipino James Bond parody FOR Y'UR HEIGHT ONLY (1981) starring Weng Weng.
Q & A between films with Rob St. Mary of The Projection Booth podcast and SEARCH FOR WENG WENG director Andrew Leavold via Skype WHEN:Saturday, June 20th at 7:30 p.m.
Cinema Detroit, 3420 Cass Avenue, Midtown Detroit. Just south of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Free parking in monitored lot north of the building.
Tickets for the Agent Double-00 Feature are $12 and can be purchased at the Cinema's box office during business hours and online at our ticketing site here.
No passes, coupons, or certificates will be honored for this special screening.