French mini-major takes int'l rights on Sayles war pic

Gallic mini-major Rezo has taken France and all international rights on John Sayles’ “Amigo,” a slice-of-war movie set in the 1899-1902 Philippine-American War.

“Amigo,” which Sayles is editing on the Philippines island of Bohol, is produced by Maggie Renzi at Anarchists Convention, Sayles’ production partner since the ’70s.

Action is set in 1900, after the U.S.’ annexation of the Philippines, in the dirty war unleashed by Filipino insurgents against the occupying forces.

U.S. Lt. Ike Compton (Garret Dillahunt) runs a U.S. garrison in a hamlet, headed by local mayor Rafael (Joel Torre), whose brother leads the local rebels. But as the war gets dirtier, Rafael has to answer not only to Compton but also to Filipino patriots.

“Rafael is between a rock and a hard place. In that sense, it’s a story that could be happening in Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam or France during the Nazi occupation,” Sayles told Daily Variety.

During the Philippine-American War, “thousands of local mayors were assassinated by guerrilla rebels or hung by American forces,” Sayles said.

“One of the things I’ve done before is that you see both sides,” he said. “You have protagonists on both sides. But they don’t understand each other. It’s never black-and-white.”

On “Amigo,” Sayles had a six-week shoot to “Honeydripper’s” five. Reflecting market trends toward doing more with less, but still aiming to deliver a war movie on a reasonable budget — $6.9 million — Sayles lensed entirely in the Philippines with an all-Filipino crew.

In an unusual move, he’s even working post-production through to final print in the Philippines.

“I’ve shot two films in Mexico. Mexico’s a little bit cheaper than the U.S. The Philippines is quite a lot cheaper.”

“Amigo” is co-produced by the Filipino arm of Torre’s Atom Films. It will be ready for delivery this fall, opening the door to play at the major fests.

Rezo head of acquisitions and co-productions Laurent Danielou calls “Amigo” “powerful” and “visually eloquent.”

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