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Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa (Antonio Banderas) finds himself without adequate funding to finance his war against the military-run government. He also finds himself at odds with the Americans because of the Hearst media empire's press campaign against him. To counter both of these, he sends emissaries to movie producers to convince them to pay to film his progress and the actual battles. Producer D.W. Griffith (Colm Feore) becomes interested and sends Frank Thayer (Eion Bailey) with a film crew to develop film reels. Thayer becomes horrified and fascinated by the bandit. He finds an enigmatic individual that is both ghoulishly brutal and charmingly captivating. The resulting film became the first feature length movie, introducing scores of Americans to the true horrors of war that they had never personally seen. Thayer sold the studios on making the film despite their concerns that no one would sit through a movie longer than 1 hour by convincing them that they could raise the ...Written by
John Sacksteder <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Griffith is shown to be making a short western in New York in 1914. It is a very cloudy and overcast day. In reality, Griffith has already moved his stock company out to California by then, plus he would have known not to shoot on such a cloudy day (there would not be enough light for the exposure). He also did not film any westerns in 1914, and would have been at work on The Battle of the Sexes at this time. See more »
This isn't a typical TV movie with card board characters and unrealistic drama.
That the movies are a perfect way of making propaganda isn't new. The Germans used it very often during the Second World War and even in more recent times it has been used to make publicity for the army (remember the boom of young men who wanted to join the US Air Force after seeing "Top Gun"). But that Pancho Villa already used it during his Mexican Revolution between 1912-1916 is something special. And don't think that this has been made up by some smart Hollywood wise guys who thought that this might be a nice story and an easy way to make a lot of money. No, this actually happened. If you don't believe me: just type Pancho Villa in the IMDb search box and check his filmography. You'll see that there have been several movies made with him in a leading role. Too bad that they are all lost.
But no problem, we still have HBO, a company that is known for its good quality work when it comes to historical projects (think for instance of "Band of Brothers" and "Citizen X"). This time they have recreated the actual events of the film crews that had an exclusive deal with Pancho Villa and that followed him during the different battles with the federal Mexican army. They show how the studio payed big money (which Villa used to fund his revolution with), so they could introduce Villa (as a good man, but also as a merciless villain), his revolution and the war the way the American public had never seen it before. All this resulted in the very first feature length movie in history.
When you are interested in the history behind the Mexican Revolution, than this is definitely a movie you shouldn't miss. But even when that subject doesn't appeal to you all that much, you should give it a try, because it's also very interesting to see how the movie studio's worked at the time and how a movie was shot. OK, you don't get to see the actual movie from 1912, but you get a very good idea of how it all worked. And the fact that this is a TV movie certainly doesn't mean that the battles don't look real or that the characters seem to be made out of cardboard.
Next to the 'historical' value of this movie and the interesting story, I also want to point out that Antonio Banderas did an excellent job portraying Pancho Villa. There are perhaps people who don't agree with me, but personally I find this his best and most convincing role ever. The other actors did a very good job as well, but in my in my opinion he was the best.
All in all this may not be a masterpiece, but it certainly is worth a watch. Don't be scared off by the label TV that you find behind the title. This isn't a typical, extremely dramatic TV movie, but a very decent and strong historical drama. I reward this movie with a 7.5/10.
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