MANAA has gotten a hold of a production draft of “The Great Raid”
starring Benjamin Bratt. The movie is about an American Army mission to
raid a Japanese POW camp in the Philippines during the end of World War
II. It was the most successful U.S. military raid of its kind - 511 prisoners
of war were rescued due to this mission. Also the success of this mission
relied on the help and ingenuity of the Filipino Resistance and its leader
Captain Juan Pajota. If you think we are exaggerating feel free to see
what PBS had to say about him.
MANAA applauds Miramax for developing this project. We also applaud the
fact that this movie features nineteen Filipino actors (according to Manila
Times). NINETEEN!!! MANAA has always noted that most Filipino American
actors will go through most of their careers never playing a character
of their own nationality. Filipinos make a living in American Cinema playing
Japanese, Chinese, Latino, Pacific Islanders but rarely Filipinos. The
juiciest role by far, Captain Pajota will be played by award wining Filipino
actor Cesar Motano.
Unfortunately most of the roles for Filipinos are filled with Filipinos
and not Filipino Americans and we regret we were not more stringent on
MIRIMAX to hire more Filipino American actors. We offer our sincerest
apologies to our Pinoy brothers who are actors.
As far as the script goes, we are lukewarm with what the writers have
done. First, the roles Filipinos played in this raid were relegated to
a minimum. The script is told through the eyes of an American LT Colonel
Henry Mucci (Benjamin Bratt), a Caucasian American prisoner Major Daniel
Gibson, and a European nurse Margaret Jenson. Sure there were Filipino
nurses, priests, and citizens all part of the resistance but every crucial
word and scene centered on the three.
Additionally, Captain Pajota and his army do not come into this story
until halfway into the script. Once he appears, he does have a couple
of juicy lines (teaching the Americans strategy and educating them about
the Philippines and the Filipino movement) but you leave the story definitely
thirsting for more. Ideally we would have wanted his role to be of same
weight as Ken Watanbe’s in “The Last Samurai” but unlike
“Samurai” Cesar never have enough screen time to develop the
type of rapport with his co-stars and the audience. Cesar is not even
listed as part of the main cast. The movie could have shown more of Pajota’s
point-of-view and rightly so. He was the most interesting character in
this script, he had the most invested in this mission (he waited 3 years
- this was personal for him), and the most dynamic.
As for the portrayal of Japanese, bad news turns to worse news. First,
this script abounds with the word “Jap”. “Jap”
is a volatile and derogatory word to refer to Japanese. Although the word
is used in a very “clinical” non-offense sense (i.e. “the
Japs are retreating”), people normally use this word to offend,
demoralize and, dehumanize not only Japanese but Asians and Asian Americans.
I’m sure MIRAMAX can fault the era, the situation, and merely adding
an air of authenticity. But these are Majors and Colonels talking tactics
and strategy in a very professional setting. All of the dialogue would
have not lost any credibility if they used Japanese instead of Japs.
Also, the Japanese characters are not portrayed in a very positive light.
One character is described as “blood thirsty” another is described
handsome although he turns out to be the most sadistic of the bunch. That
character is YAMADA whose job is to identify, brutally torture, and kill
the traitors. There are also countless other Japanese men slapping priests,
slapping women, and killing a lot of Filipinos and Americans.
But before we get our picket signs ready, let us remind ourselves that
the Japanese cruelty to the Filipinos as well as the Chinese and Koreans
during WWII are legendary. There are several websites and publications
detailing the war crimes the Japanese committed to the men AND women of
Korea, China and the Philippines and they still have yet to make restitutions
on some of them. Although it’s not a perfect balance, most of the
cruelty shown by the Japanese is off-set by the courage and compassion
of the Filipinos and overall MANAA feels that we must support the film
based on the opportunity it gave to Filipinos.
There is no set release date. For more information you can go to
MANAA will write a letter detailing this review. We would also challenge
the studio to make sure the movie poster features Cesar as well as have
him listed as the main cast and part of every trailer and promo.