US director Sayles: US-Philippine war has 'parallels' today
US indie director John Sayles hopes his latest film "Amigo", about the US occupation of the Philippines in 1899, will provide insights into more recent conflicts such as those in Afghanistan and Vietnam.
"Amigo" was presented at the San Sebastian film festival in northern Spain on Thursday as part of the competition for its top Golden Shell award.
In the film, a US army garrison arrives in a village in the jungle and has to learn to live with the local residents and confront rebels at the same time.
After some 350 years of colonisation by Spain, the Philippines was ceded to the United States in 1899 after the 10-week Spanish-American War over Cuba. Filipinos then launched a three-year guerrilla war against US troops.
"What interests me about this period of American history is that in this Filipino-American conflict are the roots of our history in the 20th century except that all elements -- imperialism, racism -- were more open, more raw at this time," Sayles told a news conference.
The racism is now "much more hidden", the 59-year-old director said, speaking in Spanish.
He said audiences will "inevitably draw parallels between 'Amigos' and what happened in Vietnam, Afghanistan or the West Bank, parts of the Soviet Union and Chechnya".
At the same time, he said he wanted to make a film about this particular period in history about which many people are unaware.
"We made the movie partly because ... no one in the Philippines knew anything of this history and no one in the US knew anything about this history," he said.
He also sought to reflect "the end of the empire" for Spain.
"The Spanish in the Philippines felt abandoned by the Spanish government (as) all the soldiers and resources had gone to Cuba," he said.
The film was shot on location in the Philippines in English, Spanish, and Tagalog, the first language in the Philippines.
The Oscar-nominated director and screenwriter, who made the mystery drama "Lone Star" and the political satire "Silver City", was pessimistic about the future of the independent films.
"Independent movies are now less shown than before and therefore we can't get money for our films, there are very few distributors," he said.
Also, "young people today have no interest" in this type of film.
The 58th San Sebastian festival, the oldest and most prestigious event of its kind in the Spanish speaking world, wraps up on Saturday.
© 2010 AFP