El Presidente (Movie Review for Parents)

Image from El Presidente Facebook Page

Image from El Presidente Facebook Page

We took our 11 and 9 year old kid to watch El Presidente and they appreciated the movie.  The movie brought to life Philippine history and the sacrifices our ancestors had to go through in order to gain our freedom.

The movie is 2 hours and 40 minutes and it's in Filipino (my kids unfortunately understand very little Filipino).  No English subtitle so I have to explain to them once in a while what was said.  But they understood the movie despite the language gap.  They are familiar with most of the characters which made it easier and more interesting.

El Presidente is the life story of Emilio Aguinaldo, our first Philippine president.   Living until the ripe old age of 94 (yes, he just died 1964) he has experienced and lived to tell of the Spanish, American and Japanese war.  It shows several war episodes from the Spanish war that Aguinaldo and his men fought. Generally,  the focus of the movie though was during the Spanish time.

The movie touched on the rivalry between Aguinaldo and Bonifacio and the painful decision Aguinaldo had to make to have Bonifacio killed.   This is a very delicate topic which need to be explained to the kids.  It is quite harsh to understand why fellow Filipinos are turning against each other,  and on top of that, heroes they studied in school wanting to kill and eventually killing each other.  I just told them sometimes there are differences in opinion and these differences if not settled peacefully leads to destruction.

In the end,  both are heroes in their own right.  Aguinaldo undoubtedly won several battles and had the leadership needed to form a nation.  Bonifacio, on one hand, as Bryan Santos of Florentino High School aptly stated, "Bonifacio is the foundation of the revolution.  He inspired the people to unite against the Spaniards and flamed their national spirit."

The movie though is lacking in good cinematography since some scenes are too dark you can barely see the faces of the people.   The battle scenes are quite shoddy but it still delivered the message. Lastly, it would have been better if they just delved on the Spanish period because this was the time that defined Aguinaldo the best.

Should you bring your grade schooler to watch it?   I say yes.   It is history in a movie - it will help them understand Philippine history better and make the next history class more interesting and real.

Note:  The movie is partly based on Emilio Aguinaldo's Memoirs of the Revolution. I am not sure how accurately the writer-director, Mark Meily, researched to verify validity of the stories in the memoir.  With a soft spot for Bonifacio (Spoiler Alert!), I was very bothered when I saw in the movie that Bonifacio extorted money from Filipinos in an effort to gather money for arms and that he was responsible for the deaths of Aguinaldo's men when he refused to send help.

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