The latest project from John Sayles ’72, the Phillippine-American War movie Amigo, has been lurking around for a number of months now. After showings at the Toronto Film Festival and AFI Fest, it still lacked a distributor. Now it finally has one:

Variance Films has acquired John Sayles’s Philippine-American War film “Amigo,” and will release the film with a dual-strategy theatrical release this summer.  Tweaking the traditional release platform, “Amigo” will start off in NY and then expand to the Top 20 markets, but for opening weekend its also going to open theatrically in 6-10 theaters in markets with a large population of Filipino-Americans, such as Milpitas, CA.

The date for the initial release has been set for August 20.

Amigo is based on a forthcoming novel, also by Sayles, which is set for release in April:

A Moment in the Sun deals with a crossroads in the struggle for the soul of America. As the nineteenth century accelerates toward the twentieth, three major themes emerge — the contentious dawn of U.S. imperialism in Cuba and the Philippines, the last desperate stand of Reconstruction in the American south, and the development of mass media, especially the brand-new phenomenon of motion pictures, as the lens through which the public increasingly will interpret world events.

It appears Amigo tells the Phillippines side of the story, whereas the novel may be more sprawling. Amigo stars Filipino actor Joel Torre as the mayor of a village garrisoned by American soldiers, including officers Garrett Dillahunt (Raising Hope, No Country for Old Men) and Chris Cooper. In a recent interview, Sayles described how the movie sheds light on the early-20th century period of American empire-building:

[I]t really is the beginning of American imperialism. We really thought of ourselves as an anti-imperialist country and even started the Spanish-American war to free the Cuban people and then we were going to free them and walk away and then somehow, a year later, we’re in the Philippines fighting against Filipinos taking their country away. That was not a comfortable shift in the American consciousness. In fact, there was a very large anti-imperialist movement. Andrew Carnegie and Mark Twain were the most famous guys against it and it was a big movement but unfortunately they didn’t win.

There were also racial and religious grounds and other things going on. But a lot of it was that this was a war when the North and South made friends again.

This was the first war that Southerners began to fight under the stars and stripes flag that they had swore they hated, that their dads had fought against when they were confederates. So for Americans, this was an important war. It wasn’t a noble one but it was an important war.

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