FUNFARE By Ricardo F. Lo (PHOTO - Joel Torre (with Amigo co-star Rio Locsin) is village mayor Rafael Dacanay)

Funfare’s Big Apple correspondent Edmund Silvestre describes Joel Torre as arguably one of the greatest Filipino actors of all time, who is quietly building a reputation as a premier Asian actor in indie Hollywood.

Rightly so.

Although he’s one of today’s busiest character actors in Philippine cinema, stage and television, Joel gets to land roles every now and then in international independent films, the most recent of which is Subject: I Love You and the upcoming action 3D Deep Gold. In the process, he’s starting to get noticed in the international market.

This month, the award-winning actor of Oro Plata Mata, Unfaithful Wife and Batang West Side will be all over the United States — beginning in New York and New Jersey on Aug. 19 — for the North American theatrical run of his other international flick Amigo, a brave and critically-acclaimed indie feature on the forgotten Philippine-American War, megged by Academy Award-nominated writer-director John Sayles.

[Joel in a scene from the John Sayles-directed movie]

Reported Edmund, “Joel, who has appeared in numerous renowned Filipino films since the ’80s and starred in the Off-Broadway play Dogeaters in New York City in 2001, will join Sayles in the US junket to talk about the untold atrocities and abuses that took place in 1900 during the entry of the Americans into the Philippines at the end of the Spanish colonization.”

Shot entirely in Bohol, the historical war drama is being distributed in the US by Variance Films. It boasts a cast of Hollywood hotshots led by Academy-Award winner Chris Cooper (Adaptation, American Beauty), DJ Qualls (Hustle & Flow, Road Trip), Garret Dillahunt (No Country For Old Men, Winter’s Bone) and Tony Award nominee Yul Vazquez (War of the Worlds, The A-Team), and a high-powered ensemble of Filipino thespians led by Torre, Ronnie Lazaro, Rio Locsin, Arthur Acuna, Pen Medina, John Arcilla, Irma Adlawan, Miguel Faustmann, Bodjie Pascua, Spanky Manikan, Joe Gruta and Bembol Roco, with local Boholano talents James Obenza, Lady Jane Rellita, John Philip Jagunos, Raymart Colestines, Lourdes Pampilo and Felipa Moncano.

In Amigo, Torre plays Rafael Dacanay, a remote village mayor caught in the murderous crossfire of the Phil-Am War. When US troops occupy San Isidro, Rafael comes under pressure from a tough-as-nails officer (Cooper) to help the Americans in their hunt for Filipino guerilla fighters. But Rafael’s brother (Lazaro) is the head of the local guerillas, and considers anyone who cooperates with the Americans to be a traitor. Rafael quickly finds himself forced to make the impossible, potentially deadly decisions faced by ordinary civilians in an occupied country.

“A powerful drama of friendship, betrayal, romance and heartbreaking violence, Amigo is a page torn from the rarely-filmed history of the Philippines and America, and a mirror of today’s irresolvable global conflicts,” Edmund quoted its US distributor as saying.

The Hollywood Reporter describes the film “impressive,” boosted by “sumptuous Philippine locations.” Time Out London calls it “intelligent and thought-provoking.”

The movie will also kick off the 34th Asian American International Film Festival in New York City (at Chelsea Clearview) on Aug. 10. Over 70 films from 16 countries are participating, including award-winning Fil-Am director Ramon Diaz’s new docu-film The Learning, which follows four Filipino women teaching inner city kids in Baltimore, Maryland. (AAIFF is America’s longest-running festival of its kind and a leading showcase for the best in independent Asian and Asian American film and video.)

Vincent Nebrida, a New York-based Fil-Am filmmaker and who is part of the distribution team of Amigo, said the movie is something every Filipino and American all over the world must not miss as it brings to the forefront a forgotten, dark episode of the Philippine-American history.

“This movie is directed by a brilliant man known in Hollywood as one of the pioneers of independent filmmaking in the US,” says Nebrida of Sayles, who was nominated twice in the Oscars for screenwriting for the films Lone Star (1996) and Passion Fish (1992).

Nebrida said Torre will be attending only in select US cities as the actor needs to fly back to Manila by the end of August to fulfill his other commitments. Among them is his regular taping for the top-rating ABS-CBN daily drama series 100 Days To Heaven seen by Filipinos all over the world via The Filipino Channel.

Amigo will have a week-long run in the following dates and cities across the US:

[Chris Cooper as the tough-as-nails colonel]

• Aug. 19 — New York, N.Y. at AMC Empire 25 Theater; Bergenfield, New Jersey at Clearview Bergenfield 5; Las Vegas, Nevada at Regal Village Square 18; Los Angeles, Calif. at Laemmle’s Monica 4 (Santa Monica), Cerritos, Calif. at Edwards Cerritos 10; and West Covina, Calif. at AMC Puente Hills 20; San Diego, Calif. at UA Horton Plaza 14; Daly City, Calif. at UA Stonestown Twin; Union City, Calif. at Cinemark Union Landing 25; Milpitas, Calif. at Century 20 Great Mall; Seattle at AMC Southcenter 16 (Tukwila); and Stockton at Regal Stockton City Stadium 16.

• Aug. 26 — Guam at Micronesia Mall 10; Honolulu, Hawaii at Regal Dole Cannery; and Santa Clara, Calif. at AMC Mercado 20.

• Sept. 2 — Washington, D.C. at AMC Rio 18; Virginia Beach, Virginia at AMC Lynnhaven 18 (Norfolk); Portland, Oregon at Hollywood Theater; and Seattle, Washington at Northwest Film Forum.

• Sept. 16 — Minneapolis, Minnesota at St. Anthony Main Theater

• Sept. 23 — Denver, Colorado at Denver Film Center (Colfax)

(Note: Visit for up-to-the-minute information including additional cities and dates as well as group sales, and the trailer.)

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved