Australian filmmaker Andrew Leavold set forth on an adventure of answers to discover the legendary, the one-and-only, pint-sized actor known internationally as Weng Weng. In the early 1980’s, Weng Weng became the Guinness World Record’s smallest lead actor in a slew of rare, some never-before-seen, Filipino spy films and took the world by storm, creating a bizarre cult following on social media, and for Andrew Leavold, the only way to learn more about the Weng Weng, who could actually act and do his own stunts despite his small stature, was to create a documentary film that would take years in the making, but would hopefully answer three very simple, yet extremely difficult, questions: Who really was Weng Weng? How did he become Weng Weng? And where was Weng Weng now?
Weng Weng might be a humorous name for some, odd in fact, and his James Bond spinoffs as Agent 00 (double zero) flourished with zany stunts, practical special effects, and a tremendous amount of improbability – just like the Bond films themselves – but the Weng Weng films, even his Westerns, had an attractive aurora about them and not only because of the 2’9” sized actor. “The Search for Weng Weng’s” main focus was its titular star, but the film also displayed how the Pinoy films had engrained much of the Filipino culture and embraced their own charismatic star actors while, at the same time, being a byproduct of America’s Hollywood and other nation’s cinematic scenes. The Pinoy films were much akin to India’s Bollywood, replacing the musical and dancing segments with more action and comedy. Though Weng Weng’s films, including “For Y’ur Height Only” and “The Impossible Kid,” were whimsical and charming, Leavold’s documentary points out the darker side of the actor’s fame by comparing and explaining how Weng Weng’s “handicap” could be examined as a freak show gimmick that exploited Weng Weng out of cinematic earnings from his so-called adopted producers. The film also noted his lack of relationships with women and his health issues later on in life. Yet, “The Search for Weng Weng” highlighted much that was unknown about the actor, such as his real name, and that he was impressive and skillful at Karate; though small, Weng Weng wasn’t a traditional short person. He was fit and muscular and this helped him accomplish much of his own stunt work, which the Filipino stunt people have been claimed to be some of the best in the world.
Leavold doesn’t leave a stone unturned as he tracks down the persons involved in Weng Weng’s life. From the film crew who worked on the Agent 00 flms to his neighbors who grew up alongside him and from one of the five siblings, a brother whose the only surviving member of his impoverished family, to, perhaps, the wealthiest former first lady adored by all, Leavold checks every nook and cranny, every minute cubby hole to obtain that much more information about how Weng Weng lived and influenced their lives. In all, not a single person disliked the tiny personality as they appreciated much about him from his squeaking voice – that was always dubbed more masculine in the films – to his overall childlike serious, but calm nature. Weng Weng, in essence, was born a star guided by unscrupulous caregivers that was ultimately bittersweet for the childlike build and mentality.
“The Search for Weng Weng” hits the nail square on the head with the exactness of the title. Leavold’s impartialness leaves the wrongdoings against Weng Weng properly in the past as a good documentarian should impress. The editing is well done, taking a non-linear journey through Weng Weng’s short lived life and movie career and Leavold’s research and dedication to the project really amplifies through the film, giving Weng Weng the appreciation he rightfully deserves despite his height limitations.
Wild Eye Releasing in association with Monster Pictures presents “The Search for Weng Weng” on home video DVD. The region free, unrated DVD is shot in various formats from standard definition full screen to 16:9 widescreen with archival footage of the best of the best from the B-Asia film stock. Bonus features are plentiful with audio commentary from the director, Andrew Leavold, extended sequences of certain interviews, deleted scenes, the official “I Love Weng Weng” music video, and trailers. Who knew that there would be 92 minutes plus of content about a man not even three feet tall? Weng Weng was a mystery to us all and now, thanks to director Andre Leavold, everyone in the world can revel in that that is the amazing Weng Weng!