UPDATE: John Sayles Starts a Stealthy War Movie


Independent filmmaker John Sayles is somewhat of an enigma in the industry, being that he makes the movies he wants completely independently and often defying any sort of genre categorization by writing and directing films about diverse subject matters; he also has a way of staying out of the limelight in between the release of those movies.

ComingSoon.net had an extensive interview with Sayles back in late 2007 for his independently-released film Honeydripper and at the time, he told us he was writing a fiction novel based on one of his unproduced screenplays, somewhat out of frustration with the difficulties of raising money to make the film.

An anonymous source tipped us off to the fact they were involved with a movie in the Philippines and doing a bit of research, we discovered it was Sayles’ latest project Baryo, his fictionalized account of the Philippines-American War that took place between the countries at the turn of the century after two American privates killed three Filipino soldiers in a suburb of Manila. The incident turned into a bloody war that lasted two years as the Philippines Army used guerilla tactics to make up for being under-equipped to face the overwhelming American forces.

In fact, this project seems to have branched out of Sayles’ 1000-page historical fiction novel “Some Time in the Sun” which he spent years writing but then had problems finding a publisher to release it, a situation documented by the L.A. Times last summer. Apparently, the novel helped him raise the finances to get the project back on track as a film.

Poking around the internet we were able to learn more about Baryo which has oddly been kept quiet even on the movie sites that specialize in independent film, although news outlets in the Philippines have been all over the story in the past month. For instance, local actor Joel Torre, who is heavily involved with the project both on and off screen, was interviewed by some of the local newspapers including Philippine Daily Inquirer and the Manila Bulletin.

Even the casting of an in-demand American actor like Garret Dillahunt in a key role last November didn’t really get mentioned in any of the normal American news outlets, but Sayles has already cast the film with another typically diverse array of actors including his regular collaborator Chris Cooper, D.J. Qualls, Yul Vazquez, Tita Cecile, James Parks and more.

Last week, Sayles even quietly started up a production blog for the movie which currently includes pictures of the locals and actors arriving from the United States to start making the movie. (We’re hoping to get a comment from Sayles about the project, although he’s clearly very busy right now.)

Although he’s been very busy, Sayles contacted us with a statement about starting the film:

“Our first week of shooting coincides with the 111th anniversary of the start of the Fil-Am War. that seems like a pretty good place to start”
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Fans of Sayles’ earlier films who have never had much of a chance to watch him at work should find it interesting to see how his latest project develops, especially if it’s as epic as a film like Steven Soderbergh’s Ché.