US filmmaker explores Fil-Am war in ‘Amigo’
“Amigo,” a John Sayles film that has reaped acclaim in several international film festivals, explores the beginnings of the “long, complex relationship” between the Philippines and the United States through what the acclaimed US indie scriptwriter and filmmaker calls “an action-packed, dramatic and heart-moving epic.”
Set during the Philippine-American War that erupted in 1899, the film centers on Rafael Dacanay (Joel Torre), the cabeza (head) of Barrio San Isidro, who is torn between keeping his village safe and obeying the colonizers.
According to Sayles, this conflict was based on what several Filipino cabezas really went through at that time. “[The story] is set in a very specific time and place — northern Luzon in the year 1900,” he wrote in the film’s study guide. “Through the Treaty of Paris in 1898, the United States ‘bought’ the Philippines from Spain for $20 million.”
He said the scenario was the result of a series of events, among them the decline of the Spanish regime in the Philippines, the uprising of the revolutionary group Katipunan and the signing of the treaty.
Sayles, one of the prime movers of independent cinema in the United States, has directed 17 films, including “Matewan” (1987), “Passion Fish” (1992) and “Lone Star” (1996).