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The 1904 St. Louis World's Fair included a live exhibit of tribesmen from what is now known as the Philippines; what happened to these people?
Marlon E. Fuentes' Bontoc Eulogy is a haunting, personal exploration into the filmmaker's complex relationship with his Filipino heritage as explored through the almost unbelievable story of the 1,100 Filipino tribal natives brought to the U.S. to be a "living exhibit" at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. For those who associate the famous fair with Judy Garland, clanging trolleys, and creampuff victoriana, Bontoc Eulogy offers a disturbing look at the cultural arrogance that went hand-in-hand with the Fair's glorification of progress. The Fair was the site of the world's largest ever "ethnological display rack," in which hundreds of so-called primitive and savage men and women from all over the globe were exhibited in contrast to the achievements of Western civilization.
The Manila-born Fuentes explores his complex relationship with his Filipino ancestry by researching the path of Markod, a Bontoc Igorot warrior brought to St. Louis in 1904, never to return home. Using historical data from the Library of Congress and the National Archives, 90-year-old archival footage, and seamless recreations, Fuentes weaves the story of the missing Markod with his own musings on the fate of his ancestral "grandfather" and the whereabouts of his final remains.
Fuentes, who serves as the film's on-screen narrator, quotes a well-known Philippine saying: "He who does not look back from whence he came from will never ever reach his destination." With Bontoc Eulogy, Fuentes has created an insightful and poignant examination of history, family, memory, and cultural loss, and a film that speaks to the entire immigrant experience.