The Search for Weng Weng (2007)

Andrew Leavold, a cult video store owner, goes on the search for a mysterious movie star from the Philippines, the 2’9” action star Weng Weng who did less than a dozen films but left a huge mark on his fans.  Leavold through his documentary shows the star’s childhood, rise, and fall until his untimely death. Written by Andrew Leavold and Daniel Palisa (as Daniel Haig) and directed by Leavold, it follows its director’s journey from Australia to the Weng Weng’s native Philippines where he finds footage of the star he had never seen, movies he had never heard about, and plenty of people ready to talk about the star.

The interviews are interesting and varied while two persons are missing in there: the couple who took him in as a child and made him a star without as much as a decent salary, which may say something of its own.  The interviews and unearthed information are interesting, even if the viewer is not familiar with Weng Weng.  There is plenty of information on the local cinema and its history as well, especially for action cinema and on how people with disabilities are viewed in it and used for entertainment in the country. The film is oddly in full screen in the version this reviewer has seen which may be due to the director being a video store owner and thus old school about the format.  Unfortunately, this lead to some of the onscreen words to fall outside of the frame at times, making it hard to see them.

Outside of this odd choice and its inconveniences, the film looks good using the best copy of Weng Weng’s work that could be found and shooting the interviews and visit to the Philippines in a clear and simple manner with the main cinematography by Jordan Arabejo.  The editing by Andrew Leavold, Hayden Peters, and James Scott works these two aspects together well with parts of the archive footage with its dubbed sound and parts of it with overlaid narration which is well and done and not aggravating like it can sometimes be. The Search for Weng Weng is an easy watch of a documentary that is interesting throughout its runtime and is built mostly around interviews with people who knew the star through family bonds or work.

The film looks good despite its annoying full frame format with clear interviews that bring a lot of information to the table.  Not being familiar with Weng Weng is not an issue to watch this documentary and it will make those unfamiliar want to check out his film and see why so many people seem to adore him. The film is a good example of a fan documentary that is well made and brings something to entertain even people who are not into the genre or star being documented.