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Brides of Sulu1937

  • 2.3
This curio from "Exploitation Picture Corp." offers one part invaluable anthropological record to one part endearingly cloddish, staged "exotic" romance. The filmmakers traveled to the Sulu Islands in the southwestern Philippines (which were then a U.S. "protectorate”) though, as our hokey, joking American narrator snarks, "As the crow flies, it is five-hundred years and more behind the march of time." Frequently pitching snark at the "primitive" peoples who live there, the film nonetheless does offer its promised "authentic document of Moro life" in footage that captures the largely Muslim population's everyday work, rituals and dances. We also get glimpses of nature underwater ("the porcupine fish, a very ugly fellow, but he has his points!") and on land (notably the graphic demise of a python). Obviously there was fear this travelogue material alone wouldn't be enough to hook Western audiences, so a Romeo and Juliet-style romance was added between two notably glam, Caucasian-looking actors. Chief's daughter Benita (Adelina Moreno) commits the grievous sin of falling for an "unbeliever," humble pearl diver Assan (Eduardo de Castro). When she flees her arranged wedlock to a wealthy suitor, the forbidden lovers are pursued on foot and in canoe by an enraged populace. Sans spoken dialogue, BRIDES OF SULU is a silent film but for library music and our garrulous narrator. He breaks up the melodramatic tension with cultural insights like his description of gamelan instruments as having "two notes: one is bad, the other is terrible!" No wonder the Moro had already rebelled against U.S. rule, a quarter-century before this short feature was released. - Dennis Harvey

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An example of the lame and condescending style of "documentary" filmmaking prevalent in US and European Cinema from the 1920's through the 1960's. It allows the bigots in the audience to continue to be comfortable in their racist beliefs abouts those with darker skin. Of course the lead roles were played by lighter complexioned actors. And so it goes.

incredible. a sympathetic and moving portrait of an oh so backwards people.