The action film, a genre that was synonymous with the Philippines a few decades back where the country was producing countless films with heroes waging battles with iconic villains with their pistols or sometimes with only their deep knowledge in street fighting, is near-extinct in the present cinematic climate that fosters repetitive romances and horrific horrors.
It's not that the country
has lost action heroes (Monsour del Rosario, taekwondo champion turned action
star, and Ronnie Rickets, action star who also directs, have moved on to
politics) or directors adept with action filmmaking (there's Rico Maria Ilarde
who embellishes his horror films with lovingly staged action sequences). I'd
wager that the lack of interest has more to do with the proliferation of
Kerwin Go's Eskrimadors is not an action film per
se. It is a documentary, and a very good one at that. Go centers on eskrima, more popularly known in other
parts of the
To the martial arts enthusiast, the documentary is something of a well-packaged tribute to a sport that has been sadly relegated locally as mere curiosity when it has actually turned into a world-wide phenomenon. To the uninitiated in the field of martial arts, the documentary is told quite imaginatively, with a distinctly solid narrative flow, and a visual flair that outwits the budgetary constraints of a local independent production. It's simply fantastic filmmaking. Instead of merely imparting researched knowledge, Go appropriates the brisk rhythm of eskrima into the film. The editing is aptly swift. The music scoring is exhilaration. The visual effects used are never needless. Eskrimadors plays exactly like an eskrima match, fast-paced, spectacular and always entertaining.
Go's greatest asset in the film are the eskrimadors themselves, who he shoots in action, displaying their expertise and swiftness in maneuvering their rattan sticks. Moreover, interspersed within the documentary are episodes from a fictional retelling of one of those lethal duels that were widespread during eskrima's early years. The story isn't so much. It's plainly about a young man who sees his father die in the hands of a villainous eskrimador in a duel. He trains, and eventually takes vengeance on the villainous eskrimador. What's fascinating about these short episodes is how expertly directed they are, from the sweeping cinematography, to the exciting action choreography, to the editing, the music, even the acting. These exciting episodes (one happens on top of a hill, another in a dimly lit alleyway, and another right in the middle of a busy marketplace), snuck neatly in an already terrific documentary, can only implore you to take notice of talents, from filmmakers to martial artists, that would otherwise remain unseen, talents that could change the fate of the dying action film genre.
(Cross-published in Lessons from the School of Inattention.)