Gerald Anderson stars in a new movie set in the Philippines about a Special Forces soldier gone “absent without leave” to take on the criminal underworld in his home country. While the revenge tale is a familiar one to movie-going audiences, what makes AWOL particularly unique is that it is set in an unfamiliar setting, the jungles and cities of the Philippine archipelago as opposed to the deserts and dusty Middle Eastern towns that have dominated our view of the war on terror.
Another unique aspect of the film is that it received technical advisors from the Philippine Special Operations community. Gerald Anderson plays a Scout-Ranger and sniper named Lt. Abel Ibarra, and the actor was coached and mentored by Captain James Salazar, a real life Philippine Special Operations sniper. “The lead actor’s father was actually a US Navy Veteran and he grew up wanting to join the US Army as he is a dual citizen but his showbiz career came in early,” Captain Salazar told SOFREP. “This made it easy for the tasked designated Special Operations Forces Team leader in training the lead actor which has natural potential in weapons handling.”
Could this be the beginning of a relationship between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the local film industry? Time will tell, but I have to suspect that the Philippine Marine Corps are going to want a movie now that the Army has one.
AWOL also features some weapons actually out of the SOCOM arms room, including sniper rifles like the above SR-25 which has seen action in various combat operations. Recently, the film had one of its first screenings for injured soldiers who served in the bloody fight for Marawi last month. Check out the making of the movie video below:
SOFREP reached out to Captain Salazar about his role in the movie as a technical consultant.
“Starting from how it came up I guess our Army wanted to make a way to boost civil support,” Salazar said. “There are many media that can be used to gain people’s confidence and films are one of the most effective. So when one of the biggest local production wanted to make a movie about a Filipino version of a Special Operator the Army granted their request for support. Hence, the director went around the AFP and asked to be directed to the most experienced unit in sniper operations. After talking to real operators the project came into birth.”
Regarding the the plot of the film, the Philippine officer remarked that, “the plot was all fiction but it played within the realm of reality. All the skill sets of the main character are factual and the lead actor got the privilege to be trained in basic combat marksmanship.”
“The unit of the Special Operations Forces Team tasked to assist in the film was not authorized to used their real unit so they made the character come from a different sister unit,” Salazar said.
Featured image courtesy of Twitter