Sci-fi film ‘Dune’ features Filipino martial art Balintawak Eskrima, director says

October 26, 2021 - 4:42 PM
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A still photo from the movie "Dune" provided via press release

Science fiction film “Dune” featured a combat style based on a Philippines’ martial art, according to its director.

The director mentioned this in a video released by The New York Times on October 23, ahead the movie’s theatrical release in the country on November 10.

“Dune” had already premiered overseas last September.

The movie was adapted from the 1965 science fiction novel of the same title written by Frank Herbert.

The epic follows a boy named Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), son of a noble family, who was destined to lead the fictional planet Arrakis and gain control over its powerful spice.

READ: Timothee Chalamet, Zendaya’s key roles unveiled in captivating ‘Dune’ trailer

Balintawak Eskrima in ‘Dune’

The two-minute video showcased a scene where a character named Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin) was training Paul on a particular fighting style.

In a voice over, French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve credited fight coordinator Roger Yuan for the choreography shown in the scene.

Villeneuve added that Yuan developed the “Atreides fighting style” by borrowing from a martial art technique called Balintawak Eskrima or Balintawak Arnis.

Balintawak Arnis is a Filipino martial art that was developed in in Cebu during the 1950s.

This fighting style became popular overseas, particularly in Hollywood films like “Dune.”

Villeneuve also briefly explained the technique in the NYT video.

“It’s a style that involves blocking the opponent’s attach with both a weapon and the free hand,” he said.

Villeneuve then described how the technique was applied to  Paul’s training in the movie.

“Each opponent is trying to distract his adversary by doing very fast moves in order to create an opportunity to insert slowly a blade inside the opponent’s shield,” he said.

The filmmaker also shared that he and cinematographer Greig Fraser shot the scene in a combat training room similar to how they do it with a dance performance.

“The goal was to embrace the complexity of the movements with objective camera angles. We tried to make sure that the audience will understand the nature of this new way of fighting,” Villeneuve said.

‘Teach arnis to kids’

A Reddit user posted the video on Tuesday, October 26.

In the comments section, some Reddit users expressed hopes that FMA, especially arnis, would be taught in schools again.

“Bring back Filipino martial arts in PE classes please,” one user said.

“It’s one of those arts that can be flashy or simple, depending on how you want it. People thinks it’s all flares and sticks but it really isn’t. I hope more Filipino kids learn it because it’s one of those rare things that we can actually be proud of,” another user said.

One Reddit user, meanwhile, cited the popularity of arnis in superhero movies and shows.

“DC loves Eskrima. Nightwing, Batgirl/Oracle and Deathstroke all use it as their primary martial art. Almost everyone in the TV Arrowverse as you’ve mentioned, study/use eskrima. Marvel doesn’t have its shortage of users too, you have Mockingbird, Deadpool, Nightcrawler, Daredevil being the most popular ones,” the user wrote.

Villeneuve’s view on the book

In a statement, Villeneuve said that he had read “Dune,” the book, when he was a teenager.

He said that he was “mesmerized” by Herbert’s view of nature.

“Frank Herbert’s view of nature was absolutely mesmerizing—all those beautiful ecosystems he created.  His exploration of the impact and chaos caused by colonialism was a portrait of the 20th century that is still relevant today,” Villeneuve said.

“And through all of this was a young man struggling with his identity, trying to find his way in the world, as I was doing myself.  The way Paul discovers his identity through another culture was, for me, amazing,” he added.

Aside from Chalamet and Brolin, Dune’s star-studded cast include Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Zendaya and Jason Mamoa.