(By Henrylito D. Tacio, Saturday, 14 Jan 2012)
IF you happen to go to the United States and mention Vietnam, they become poignant. After all, a lot of American soldiers died during the war that took place in the said country.
Americans are so engrossed on it that several movies were made on the subject, most of the Oscar-winning pictures: Coming Home, The Deer Hunter, and Good Morning, Vietnam to name a few.
Vietnam, the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia, is full of rice fields, coconuts, forests, and beaches. In the past, should Hollywood producers look for a place to shoot a film that takes place in Vietnam, they usually come to the Philippines.
The reason: the Philippines could pass for Vietnam. This was the reason why Francis Ford Coppola filmed Apocalypse now (1979) in the Philippines. Both the Oscar-winning Platoon (1986) and Born on the Fourth of July (1989) were also shot in the country.
"I still remember Laoag City in the Philippines where I had a great time filming the Oliver Stone movie," Tom Cruise, lead star of the latter movie, was quoted as saying.
Missing in Action, done in 1984 and starred Chuck Norris, and its subsequent sequels were also done in the Philippines. Ditto for Sidney J. Furie’s The Boys In Company C (1978) and John Irvin’s Hamburger Hill (1987)
But in recent years, foreign filmmakers stop making movies in the country. The Great Raid (2005), starring Benjamin Bratt and Cesar Montano, was shot in Australia. To think of, the story happened in the Philippines, specifically Cabanatuan.
There are several reasons why American film producers avoid shooting their movies in the Philippines these days. For one, the actors have to travel half around the world to get in the country. Another reason: the record of kidnappings and insurgency.
Still another is the volatile political situation in the country. Whatever the reasons are, insurance companies would not insure any movie if it is filmed in the Philippines as the country “is very risky.”
But despite all these reasons, John Sayles, one of America’s most illustrious independent film directors – shot his 17th full-length movie in the Philippines recently. Amigo, originally titled Baryo, is a fictional account of events during the Philippine-American War. Sayles himself wrote the screenplay and edited the movie, which was filmed on location in Bohol.
“The Philippines has an existing film industry,” he replied when asked why he shot Amigo in the Philippines. He is also impressed by the Filipino actors. “They can move from different styles of acting, from theater to telenovelas, from big movies to indie films," he said. As this article is written, another Hollywood movie, Bourne Legacy, the latest installment of the Jason Bourne action-film franchise, is currently being shot in Metro Manila. Some parts of the film would also be shot in scenic spots in Palawan.
In an editorial, Business Mirror lauds: "Forget about the nightmarish traffic around the film shoots. This, indeed, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Bourne Legacy will be shown worldwide and, based on the record of its predecessors, is sure to be another blockbuster. The media coverage on the shoot alone, which would be covered by Entertainment Tonight, is bound to get the country some much-needed international press exposure, hopefully positive mileage, if we play our cards right and be good hosts."
The good thing about Bourne Legacy is that the Philippines is not standing for another country. In fact, the scriptwriter wrote the story with Manila as the setting of the movie's climax.
In the controversial Brokedown Palace (1999), Manila was used in lieu of Bangkok, the capital of Thailand. This Jonathan Kaplan movie showed a critical view of the Thai legal system so they were prevented to shot the film there. Claire Danes, who starred in the film, was declared persona non grata by Manila local government when she said in her interview with Vogue that "Manila is a ghastly weird city" in 1998 after the filming.
At the premiere of the film, she further remarked that the city (Manila) "smelled of cockroaches, with rats all over and that there is no sewage system and the people do not have anything-no arms, no legs, no eyes."
In 1982, Peter Weir came to the Philippines to shoot The Year of Living Dangerously. This time, the Philippines was used as Indonesia. The film, starring Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver, was about a love affair in Jakarta, Indonesia during the overthrow of President Sukarno.
But during filming, the actors and several others received death threats from Filipino Muslims who believed the film was anti-Islam. The production was forced to move to Australia.
Award-winning Bob Hoskins traveled all the way from United States to the Philippines to appear in Roger Spottiswoode's Noriega: God's Favorite (2000). Since the movie was about a Panamanian, the Philippines was used as Panama and South America this time.
In Roger Donaldson's Thirteen Days (2000) the Philippines was used as Cuba. Although it starred Kevin Costner, he never came to the country. Despite the budget of about US$80 million, it only grossed US$35 million when it was released.
Although most films shot in the Philippines were done in Luzon, Tran Anh Hung did I Come With The Rain (2009) in Mindanao, particularly in Mount Diwalwal in Monkayo, Compostela Valley.
Wikipedia shares this information about the movie that starred Josh Harnett: "Two years after killing a serial killer in the line of duty, Kline now works as a private detective, but he is still haunted by the ghosts of his past. A powerful pharmaceutical conglomerate boss hires Kline to find his only son Shitao who has mysteriously disappeared in the Philippines where he had been helping in an orphanage. Kline follows the trail left by the ethereal Shitao to the jungles of Mindanao, and then to the urban jungle of Hong Kong."
Of course, there were Hollywood movies in the past where the actual setting was the Philippines because it happened in the country.
In 1964's Flight to Fury, the adventure was set in the Philippines and chronicled the exploits of two men who survive a plane crash in the jungle. Jack Nicholson appeared in the movie, along with our very own Joseph Estrada, who played the role of Garuda.
The setting of the first part of An Officer and a Gentleman was the Philippines, particularly Subic Bay. Wikipedia has this information: "The film begins with Zack Mayo (Richard Gere) receiving a graduation present from his father Byron (Robert Loggia), a brash, womanizing US Navy Boatswain's Mate formerly stationed at Subic Bay in the Philippines."
Other Hollywood films that were shot in the Philippines include: Subject: I Love You
(2010), Man on the Moon (1999), Kiss The Sky (1999), DNA (1997), Delta Force 2: The Colombian Connection (1990), American Ninja (1985), Enter the Ninja (1981), The Thirsty Dead (1974), Black Mama, White Mama (1972), The Big Doll House (1971), Too Late the Hero (1970), Back to Bataan (1945), and The Real Glory (1939).