Timely, with the passing of the Arnis bill that finally made arnis into a national martial art and sport, is the release of “Eskrimadors,” a documentary film about the Filipino martial arts (FMA) by Cebuano production outfit Pointsource Films.

The term eskrimador means, “a practitioner of eskrima.” While arnis is the generic term for the FMA in Luzon, in the Visayas, particularly in the island of Cebu, it is better known as eskrima.

“This film came about when we were looking for a project that was uniquely Cebuano in scope and identity, but had the capability to reach out to a worldwide audience,” says Kerwin Go, the producer and director of the film.

Tribute to ‘eskrimadors’

Go describes Eskrimadors as a hybrid documentary incorporating historical facts and interviews with action scenes. “There is a little storyline woven into the documentary.

We interviewed all of the well-known figures within the Cebu eskrima circle and made reenactments based on their stories,” he narrates.

The eskrima masters featured in the film are Ciriaco “Cacoy” Cañete, Dionisio “Diony” Cañete and Undo Caburnay.

In addition, “Eskrimadors” offers a sneak peak into the deadly techniques of the eskrima styles of Doce Pares, Lapunti Arnis de Abanico, Teovel’s Balintawak, Nickelstick Balintawak and Liborio Heyrosa Decuerdas.

“The goal of Eskrimadors is to shine a light on the indigenous martial artists of Cebu. They are truly unsung heroes who have kept this unique aspect of our culture alive,” explains Go.

The young filmmaker hopes that through Eskrimadors, the young generation would be encouraged to study the FMA.

While the common misconception about eskrima is that it is exclusively a stick fighting art, in reality it is a complete fighting system, encompassing punching, kicking, locks and submissions as well as the use of various impact and bladed weapons.

Filipino knife-fighting techniques are considered the best in the world.

Real deal action

“Eskrimadors” was filmed in the following locations in Cebu: downtown Cebu, Pasil district and Bogo in northern Cebu. Go reveals that they used real eskrimadors in the sequences requiring reenactment, “There were no professional actors in this film.

They are all real martial artists. It was a pleasant surprise to discover that they could act as well,” he says spiritedly, adding, “We had each group choreograph the fight scenes that they would come out in.”

One interesting aspect of eskrima that was tackled in the film is juego todo. A part of the film’s synopsis explaining juego todo reads, “When there were no wars to fight or conflicts to settle, eskrima masters would often engage in juego todo matches.

Juego todo [to gamble all in Spanish] were no-holds-barred, full-contact matches, which often resulted in severe injuries and even death of its participants.

It gained particular notoriety in the early 1950s to 1960s in what was called the Golden Age of eskrima. Rival clubs such as Doce Pares and Balintawak pitted their best fighters against each other in juego todo.

Names such as Cacoy Cañete, Anciong Bacon, and Inting Carin rose to prominence as the most feared duelists of their era.

Go relates that the biggest challenge in filming “Eskrimadors” was squeezing into a limited time frame the varied tasks of production that includes research, establishing contact among the different eskrima groups and scheduling interviews, “It’s not easy since most of the grandmasters are always out of the country doing seminars.

Editing was also a major challenge since we had hours and hours of footage. Trying to fashion a story out of those was difficult to say the least,” he recalls.

Filmmaker and FMA fan

When asked if he is an eskrimador himself, Go replied, “I’m a filmmaker who has become a fan and advocate of the FMA. I did train under one of the masters featured in the film when we were doing preparations.” Go is an award-winning Los Angeles trained cinematographer and director.

His 2007 collaboration with director Chris Anastas titled “Highway 191,” won Panavision USA’s emerging filmmaker grant, beating 20 other applicants nationwide.

The film was shown at the Sedona and Newport Beach Film Festivals. In addition, Go has shot two feature films, “Disarmed” and “Project Fear” for Los Angeles-based production company In-Motion Pictures.

It featured Hollywood stars Steven Bauer (Scarface, Traffic) and Patrick Bergin (Patriot Games, Sleeping with the Enemy).

An action movie, “Disarmed” premiered at the Action On Film Festival on July 22, 2009 at the Laemmle Theater in Pasadena, California. Locally, Go is also active in television and commercial work.

Go also mentioned two other key people in the production of “Eskrimadors” — cinematographer and co-producer Ruel Antipuesto and producer Jeneth Borlasa.

Antipuesto was the producer, co-director and cinematographer for the digital independent film “Confessional,” which swept the Cinema One Originals and 2008 Star Awards for best digital feature film, best screenplay, best editing and best director categories.

“Confessiona”l also garnered the best first-feature category in the Osian Cinefan Film Festival in India. Borlasa is the associate producer of the documentary “U.S.S Cooper: The Return to Ormoc Bay,” produced by Bigfoot Entertainment.

“Eskrimadors’” premiere in Cebu City is scheduled on January 30. Negotiation is ongoing for its screening in Manila.

Check out the trailer:

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