AN UNTOLD TRIUMPH SELECTED
FOR NATIONAL BROADCAST ON PBS
HONOLULU/WASHINGTON D.C. - The filmmakers of the award-winning documentary, AN UNTOLD TRIUMPH, which tells the story of the U.S. Army's 1st and 2nd Filipino Infantry Regiments, have just received word that PBS has accepted the film for its national primetime schedule.
PBS has scheduled the documentary to air on Monday, May 30 following a repeat broadcast of the American Experience program "Bataan Rescue." AN UNTOLD TRIUMPH includes a retelling of the Bataan Death March from the Filipino soldier's perspective.
Major funding for An Untold Triumph was provided by the National Asian American Telecommunications Association (NAATA), which is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. NAATA presents stories that convey the richness and diversity of the Asian Pacific American experience.
In a communique to NAATA, PBS said, "Among the people who have seen the film here at PBS, there were no must-have editing notes on the content. It's a well-told story and provides a new perspective on WWII."
Getting on the national schedule in prime time is almost next to impossible, according to the film's director Noel Izon of Washington D.C. "Unless you have a great series, or your last name happens to be Burns or your program was produced by one of the major PBS stations, getting an independent documentary without those kinds of credentials into the system is truly a miracle. And I think that's what happened.
"We have a lot of guys pulling for us up there. People are looking out for us. God is looking out for us. We have much to be thankful for and we give thanks!" said Izon, whose production credits with PBS go back more than 30 years.
The film was co-written by Izon and Hawaii filmmaker Stephanie J. Castillo. Castillo also served as an associate producer on the project along with associate writer/humanities scholar Linda Revilla of Sacramento, California and project director Domingo Los Banos of Pearl City. Veteran Simeon Amor of Honolulu was the project's regiment historian. The film's director of photography was Academy Award-winning cinematographer Chris Li of Washington D.C. It will be presented on PBS by NAATA.
AN UNTOLD TRIUMPH illuminates the most important period in the history of Filipinos in America when more than 7,000 immigrants and sons of immigrants rallied and joined the fight for freedom after the attack on Pearl Harbor and the immediate invasion of the Philippines by Japanese military forces. Most were trained as infantry troops in California; a select group was handpicked and given specialized training in Australia for reconnaissance and espionage. Together, they were General MacArthur's "secret weapon", an indispensable asset of Filipino soldiers and commandos to help him make good on his promise to return to the Philippines and rid it of the Japanese occupiers.
For Los Banos, who was the project's chief fundraiser, this is a dream come true. He and the team struggled for eight years to get this film made. Los Banos was part of the 1st Regiment and part of a cadre of 50 "Hawaii boys" who helped do the dirty work of "mopping up" the Japanese soldiers holding out in the mountains of Samar and Leyte.
"We are delighted with this news, because we wanted to produce a product worthy of public television. We are deeply grateful for the many organizations, institutions and individuals who through the eight years supported us with their donations, making it possible to complete this documentary," said Los Banos. Most of the $500,000 raised to make the film came from Hawaii.
"And I would like to pay special tribute to the production team for their excellent efforts. This is a fitting tribute to each of the members of the 1st and 2nd regiments and their families, especially to those men who made the supreme sacrifice in the Philippine campaign," he said.
Finishing the film also honors the memory of director Izon's father who on his deathbed made his son promise to finish the film. Esmeraldo Izon was a member of the Philippine guerillas officially recognized by the U.S. armed forces and served as a member of the Philippine underground press during the war.
The film is narrated by actor Lou Diamond Phillips who was complimented by PBS for his narrative work on the film. Being half Filipino, Phillips saw this film as his story as well and has expressed his willingness to support the film's broadcast premiere.
"It took a team of committed Filipino American filmmakers to care enough to persevere and finish this film," says Castillo. "With it, we hope that all Americans will feel a pride in our Filipino American soldiers who are indeed among what has been called 'the greatest generation'."
PBS will broadcast a one-hour version of the film. The Director's cut along with an extended DVD version will be available later in the year.
Castillo will join Izon in planning for the PBS broadcast. "On one evening in early May, AN UNTOLD TRIUMPH will enter the living rooms of America and present the heroism and sacrifices of the 1st and 2nd Filipino Infantry Regiments. What a great day that will be!" says Izon.
"Now, our next job will be to get the word out. Mobilize the Filipino community. Have a mini-premiere where ever there are at least three Filipinos!" he said.
PBS will broadcast a one-hour version of the film. To accommodate the broadcast, key sections had to be dropped from the 85-minute directors cut, including the section featuring Los Banos and the Hawaii boys and the section on the soldiers marrying Filipino war brides. These two subjects, however, will be explored in two short films being produced by Castillo for the 2006 celebration of 100 years of Filipino immigration to the American.
"And so they won't be totally lost. They're important parts of the big picture and add so much to our understanding of the contribution made by the Hawaii boys and the sacrifices made by the war brides," says Castillo.
Her short film portraits will focus on Los Banos and his role today as chaplain to his aged war buddies and on her mother Norma Vega Castillo, who married her father -- a 2nd regiment soldier -- and was one of the first war brides to leave the Philippines. A third portrait will feature Honolulu Start-Bulletin political cartoonist Corky Trinidad, who lived through the war as a young boy in the Philippines.
Izon's director's cut had its world premiere on November 4, 2002 at the Hawaii International Film Festival where it won the "BLOCKBUSTER VIDEO Audience Award for Best Documentary." It has gone on to win many other awards and recognition, including a Silver Telly, An Omni Award, A Pamana Legacy Award and an Accolade Award.
It was shown to an overflow crowd at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC in January 2003 and went on to show in dozens of cities and at film festivals across the country. It was nominated for Best Documentary at the Dallas Asian Film Festival and was an Official Selection of the San Francisco and the Los Angeles Asian American Film Festivals. It was the Closing Night film for the Rhode Island Film Festival.
Upcoming screenings in the next few month are scheduled for Las Vegas, New Jersey, Philadelphia and on May 1st at the US-Asean Film and Photography Festival where it is one of three nominated documentaries.