Friday, October 27, 2006
Hollywood Havoc Comes to Guam
A quick update on the Max Havoc GEDCA scandal. Apparently the producer of th Max Havoc move has now decided to sue the Government of Guam for $2 million!
There was a tremendous buzz around Guam several years ago when it was announced that Hollywood would be coming to Guam in the form of the film Max Havoc: Curse of the Dragon.
A number of stars were announced to be attached to the movie who didn't appear in the film. For example, Qi Shu (from The Transporter and So Close) and rapper Fat Joe were supposed to be in Max Havoc, but were eventually replaced with David Carradine and Richard Roundtree. Semi-superstar Carmen Electra was the only "big" contemporary name to make it into the film cut of the film, albeit for only a few moments.
Of course, this film was mostly hype and not even hype of a digestable type. It was almost ridiculous hype when you think about the horrible director that Albert Pyun is and then the incredibly low budget and bland martial arts film they were proposing. For a film such as this to be both financially viable and to increase the positive visibility of Guam, it would need to feature more than just Carmen Electra, Joanna Krupa, Tawny Sablan and the Outrigger Hotel and also be of a martial arts caliber beyond Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior. Low budget films can capture huge audiences, but there must be something about them which is unique or some sort of hook which can snag the interest of people who know nothing about Guam.
The low budget formula that Max Havoc seemed to operate on, should have been incredibly suspect, from a number of points of view. For instance, Albert Pyun has made only two films which were incredibly cheap and incredibly profitable, first in 1982 with The Sword and the Sorcerer and then in 1989 with Cyborg starring Jean Claude Van Damme. Since then however, not a single one of his epic theatrical sojourns has reached that level. Furthermore as Max Havoc was not intended to be distributed in any form but limited DVD release, there was pretty much no way that a positive, international or nation buzz could emerge around this film, or significant financial success unless of course we started an internet rumor that there was a snuff film involving Paris Hilton after the credits.
Given the fact that any idiot could have done a simple Google search to see the poor film record of Albert Pyun and the fact that he may have even swindled other locales out of money for crappy movies, why was Hollywood welcomed into Guam so enthusiastically? While most people will quickly respond that it is because people on Guam are stupid or that the Government of Guam which ended up foolishly financing Max Havoc is just plain corrupt and incompetent, I'd like to start a more productive line of inquiry.
In order to understand why Guam would welcome such an obvious con game, we need to think about the way people on Guam tend to understand things that come from the United States.
Guam sits on "the edge of America" yet also on "the edge of Asia." Thousands of miles of ocean separate Guam from the United States mainland, and so the only reason that Guam is even allowed to try and refer to itself as "Where America's Day Begins" is because of the great strategic value it represents by being "America in Asia," or a perfect forward base from which the United States can control this end of the Pacific as well as project military power and pressure into the Asian continent.
Most people in Guam treat life there as some sort of daily Fear Factor. Everyday the intense and psychologically draining challenge is to endure the fact that what makes you American is your strategic military value to the United States for being situated on the edge of Asia, but by virtue of your distance to the US and the crass way that it uses you and limited way it needs you, you also constantly teeter on the edge of falling into some third world abyss. Life on Guam sucks for the most part, because we live in an ambiguous place between loathing over being a first world colony, yet suddenly loving it once we are confronted with the possibility of being a third world country.
I'm not sure as to who actually invoked the idea of "Hollywood" to describe the coming of the Max Havoc movie crew, but it was for the most part snatched up eagerly, often silently by most people on Guam, whether they admitted to it or not. For those who are frustrated by the insurmountable colonial difference between Guam and the United States, which no amount of American flags, food stamps or Chamorro deaths in American wars can seem to cover over, the film represented an opportunity to hopefully reach past the colonial/geographical distance between the United States and assert Guam as part of the United States based on the newly shared ownership of the concept of "Hollywood."
But this analysis need not be limited simply to the Max Havoc movie, you can find it all around the island, every day. For example, I wrote last year about what I call "the infamous white doctor" which follows the same dynamic of things which appear to originate from the United States being almost immediately valuable and important and necessary once they reach Guam. When I was living on Guam, it was so surreal to hear people complain incessantly about how they have to wait for a week or two watch shows, after they have aired in the states.
The argument that this is just plain inconvenient actually makes little to no sense (since all the episodes will still be shown), except from the prespective that when I am watching network and cable television, I am actually doing more than just merely watching television. The extra act that is taking place and that the complaint accidentally references is that in watching theese programs I am attempting to imagine myself alongside other Americans, and therefore the fact that I have to wait two weeks and am not in sync with their watching, messes with that imagination, brutally forcing me to imagine myself elsewhere than the United States. Forcing me to imagine myself on Guam, which because of the fact that it didn't live up to my first world fantasies, scares me even more because this failed act is just another think to fear falling into third world status over. (Such as the military people who called into radio stations days after Typhoon Pongsongna to complain that while the majority of the island did not have power or water, that they on base did not yet have cable).
At some point I will write a review of the Max Havoc movie, because I have watched it several times, and although it is very poorly made and very funny for all the wrong reasons, it is interesting nonetheless in the way it portrays Guam. If you can't wait for my review, the Pacific Daily News wrote one last year, which is not forgiving at all.
If you are like me and have been following closely the GEDCA loan debacle, you can read the exclusive article that was published in Minagahet last year, Hollywood Comes to Guam..Then Leaves! which was written by an actual member of the Max Havoc film crew.
I guess the only joke left to make is that the real scandal of this whole thing is that there is going to be another Max Havoc movie, this time Max Havoc: Ring of Fire.