Third World Hero

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An iconoclastic search for a national hero.

Third World Hero is a rare example of a fake/mock documentary in Filipino cinema.

Directed by Mike de Leon, one of the most experimental and demanding filipino cineastes, it deals with the most revered, almost sacred personality of the Philippines history, Dr Jose Rizal, the national hero of independence, revered by all Filipinos. The historical character of Rizal had already inspired several films, including Rizal in Dapitan (Rizal sa Dapitan, 1997, directed by Tikoy Aguiluz) and the ambitious epic Jose Rizal by Marilou Diaz Abaya (1998), for which project De Leon had been contacted.

Written by Mike de Leon and Clodualdo (Doy) del Mundo, Third World Hero introduces two filmmakers (played by Ricky Davao and Cris Villanueva) who plan to make a documentary on Rizal, the man and the myth, with multiple questions about his life and death. Also about the document he might have signed to retract his anti-Catholic feeling before he was executed by the Spanish on December 30th, 1896, aged 35. However, instead of making a respectful biography of the National hero (as there is a national bird, song, animal, etc, as shown in the credits), the film becomes a puzzle challenging the myth. The two filmmakers embark on a disrespectful documentary full of traps, as they interview the ghosts of the Rizal family, notably his mother Dona Teodora, and his sisters Trining and Narcisa, and, last but not least Josephine Bracken, his Irish (or British?) love, who is said to have married him before he died. Rizal himself appears, played by Joel Torre, to confirm or infirm all what they say about him… Deconstructing the myth of a man who sacrifices his life to free his country from the Spanish colonizers, Mike de Leon’s film is a fascinating puzzle where different kinds of “truth” question his multi-faced personality, “alla Pirandello,” or the Rashomon way… Even when he is condemned to death, the filmmakers interview one of the priests, Padre Balaguer (played by Eduardo Rocha) who might know the final truth about Rizal’s catholic faith. Once again, “Truth” is dubious and very relative. At the end, Rizal will die with all his secrets.

So, far from the official and respectful portraits of Jose Rizal, whatever qualities they may show, Third World Hero puts a lot of question marks on the mythical hero of a ‘third world country,” i.e. the Philippines, where “nothing much has changed” since he died, notably the political dynasties (the Marcos, Aquino, and many others) and the weight of the Catholic Church, as it shows at the end.

Max Tessier
Film director: Mike DE LEON
Year: 1999
Running time: 94'
Country: The Philippines
27/04 - 2:00 PM
Visionario, Via Asquini 33
27-04-2024 14:00 27-04-2024 15:34Europe/Rome Third World Hero Far East Film Festival Visionario, Via Asquini 33CEC Udine
Online in Italy until the end of the Festival