One night in 1996, Australian cult video store owner turned guerrilla filmmaker Andrew Leavold dreamt he was in the Philippines directing a documentary about Weng Weng, the long dead Filipino midget James Bond. Ten years later, he’s actually in Manila making a deal with the forces of chaos and following his two decade obsession to its logical conclusion.
Armed only with a Mini DV camera and with a head full of gloriously bad B movies, Leavold fearlessly leaps into the trenches of the Philippines’ once thriving film industry and allows blind chance and serendipity to point the way. As for Weng Weng: he remains an enigma even to those who worked with him. His reign as the midget Agent 00 was an outrageous novelty that plucked him from complete obscurity and returned him just as quickly. What was he like? When and how did he pass away? In a country of 80 million people, it seems the truth about Weng Weng has slipped between the cracks forever.
As Weng Weng’s story is painstakingly pieced together, we discover he was not expected to live due to his unique condition, and after surviving his first twelve months in a shoe box under a light bulb, his family declared him a miracle birth, and would dress him as Santo Nino in the local parades in Baclaran. He was a black belter, made over ten films, was a superstar for a short while, was paid poorly, and then fell ill and passed away in poverty and complete obscurity. Still, he accomplished more in his short lifetime than most will ever dream of. His story is sad and remarkable, and represents a triumph of his spirit over hardships and physical limitations.
The Search for Weng Weng leapfrogs from one eccentric character to the next directors, producers, actors, stuntmen, dwarf waiters, even Imelda Marcos herself, each one with a unique place in Filipino cinema all the while dismantling the country’s greatest filmic urban legend. It’s part detective story, part forgotten B film history, and part surreal Quest for the Holy Grail – that is, if the Grail is a two foot nine superstar called Weng Weng.
The film shows the director’s obsession for the extra-ordinary and the “angels of the bizarre” which were the common bread of the Filipino popular movies in the 1970s and beyond. A world of unlimited possibilities created by people who had little money but a lot of demented imagination.