The Philippines were very prolific in their filmmaking, and were for decades, but the era most want to talk about, if they talk about it at all, is the period of the late nineteen-sixties to the early eighties, the heyday of foreign investment in their nation's film industry. This is a documentary concentrating on that golden age (if you like), spearheaded by exploitation great Roger Corman who found he could make projects cheaply and in exotic locations, and he certainly exploited that throughout the two decades he produced there. But this inspired locals to make their own action and horror flicks, all under the yoke of a dictatorship...
You could kind of see why, as this did not quite have the same killer theme as those other two, if anything Filipino productions being too niche an interest to really appeal across the board (or as far across the board to matter). Yet Hartley knew a good story when he heard it, and starting with homegrown Filipino star Weng Weng as his jumping off point (certain experts thought Vic Diaz would have been more appropriate to feature, given how prolific he was), he built an hour and a half of crazy anecdotes from the people who were there and helped to build an industry, if only for a short while in the great cinematic scheme of things. The list of interviewees was impressive.
Corman was at the head of the table as far as that went, for without his nose for a bargain this would not have been made since there would not be anywhere near the amount of material, but there was also the court jester in John Landis who disdainfully and humorously shot down any pretensions that Corman or anyone else had about the quality of these movies. Every time someone piped up to point out that many of these actioners featured great roles for women, having them take the lead as strong and in charge, someone, usually Landis, would counter that by highlighting the fact that pretty much all those women were required to take their clothes off for the camera as well, hence that wiped out any feminist message latterly claimed for, say, a women in prison spectacular.
Nevertheless, those championing the pro-female agenda were not to be dismissed out of hand, as the seventies was a confused, mixed messages decade about the subject of women's rights in many ways, but there was definitely a thrill about witnessing such characters lay waste to chauvinist pigs, often with kung fu or firearms which from some angles could look empowering. Filipinos were empowered too, with directors like Eddie Romero, Cirio H. Santiago and Bobby A. Suarez following Corman's lead and crafting their own shoddy but energetic action items, though we are never in any doubt they were allowed to do so because the authorities liked the profits. The political situation was ever-pressing, and as the revolutionaries closed in, the foreign filmmakers scarpered, leaving a body of work that was never going to be mistaken for high art. Hartley's ruthless way with the editing guaranteed this never stood still, and aside from a superfluous digression into Apocalypse Now, this was as good as his other two documentaries, frequently laugh out loud funny with it. Music by Jamie Blanks.