15:27 - 16th January 2015, by Calum Waddell

The Search for Weng Weng

Weng Weng was just two feet, nine inches tall and, yet, somehow, he ‘made it’ as an underground film legend, as well as a brief box office attraction in his native Philippines. Today, as Australian documentary filmmaker Andrew Leavold discovers, the spectre of Weng Weng has vanished in Manila, and few of the country’s young people are even aware of the pint-sized action star, whose handicap was disturbingly played for hilarity.

So what exactly happened to the leading man of such James Bond spin-off spy-spoofs as in For Y’ur Height Only (1981) and The Impossible Kid (1981)? Leavold does a commendable job of finding out – even if the answer is given away about 20 minutes into his feature (‘he died’) – and he manages to speak to most of the main players in the Weng Weng story. The ultimate discovery of his passing is unfortunate – a man who became a VHS legend never really experienced fame or fortune on any sort of grand scale. Therefore, this expose is essential and historically vital for anyone with an interest in either Z-movie cinema or third world schlock (understandably, perhaps, Leavold managed to raise over $30,000 on Kickstarter to complete his labour of love). Unfortunately, seeing the director meet Imelda Marcos – wife of arch-dictator Ferdinand Marcos whose regime crippled the Phillipines and led to the torture and death of tens of thousands of people – with a sprightly ‘it’s an honour to meet you’ is stomach churning. Witnessing him further compliment her on her ‘beautiful home’ in a country of slums, poverty and rampant corruption is equally nauseating. That said, it also indicates, perversely, that the exploitation inherent to the Weng Weng story continues even today…

Weng Weng’s story does not quite sustain the running time of this documentary – whilst an unwise attempt to glorify the Marcos administration as champions of the arts (at the expense of human rights?) leaves a sour taste.
SCORE: 3/5
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