The Art of Revolution in 'God Rewards the Fearless'
Apr 5, 2011
The second American revolution has taken place in the not too distant future of 2017 and martial law has been enacted. People are left in poverty, many with family members killed or missing, and fearing for their safety with no means of protection since guns have been outlawed. This is the scenario which writer and director Phil “Lobo” Cruz created for his web series God Rewards the Fearless(GRTF). His Orwellian 1984 inspired series is his attempt at not only entertaining but also igniting a spark in some viewers to question the safety of the status quo.
Revolutionary and apocalyptic scenarios are a popular trend dating from the bible to the modern age. Whether they feature inclement weather conditions, pandemic disease, insurgent groups, totalitarian governments, evil aliens or rogue robots, all of these narratives unveil our fear. The fear rooted in the anarchic uncertainty underlying the order and structure we fight to build and maintain in society. They illustrate our fear of the unknown and of the potential government conspiracies which nag at us as we watch the political machine unfold around us.
GRTF is in the vain of such films as The Book of Eli, Mad Max and the Terminator franchise. This award winning homage to classic novels like Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and George Orwell’s 1984 won first place in the "The Answer to 1984 is 1776" video contest hosted by political radio host Alex Jones.
About the title God Rewards the Fearless, Cruz clarifies, “It is not meant to be a religious statement or a misquote from the bible. It’s just like a thematic mantra, just to instill a fighting spirit. It speaks a lot to fearlessness and you get great rewards from fearless deeds.”
Cruz was not only inspired to write this series because of the current global political climate but because of his choice to remain an “atheist in [political] realms.” He explains he does not believe in taking sides on the two warring factions we have as political parties in America because, as he puts it, “there’s just a bunch of skullduggery going on.”
“We’ve become a nation divided along political lines. The main thing people have forgotten is the ‘We the People’ part,” Cruz laments.
He goes on to talk about self sustainability and how people have completely forgotten core survival skills like how to hunt and farm and how getting away from television helped him and his wife reconnect more with neighbors, friends and family.
“At the end of the day, all we have is each other as human beings. And we shouldn’t be relying on the government or anyone to take care of us. That’s all there is to it. ‘We the People’ works both ways. We the people have to take care of ourselves.”
Cruz also says the script for GRTF was almost prewritten for him by what he refers to as “the agenda of the elite” and the idea that “current events form future trends.”
Admittedly, nations controlled by dictatorships and subject to martial law are current events not just historical lessons. Recently the news has been flooded with stories of Bahrain, Libya and Egypt and the reality of forcible suppression of personal freedom and the people’s collective will is not uncommon.
“[GRTF] is very much about revolution and it’s raw. America has a very romantic notion about revolution. [People] think it’s about waving flags in the street,” Cruz says.
Political ideologies aside, Cruz unwittingly found himself personally acquainted with the Department of Homeland Security after returning from a trip to Mexico in 2006. Upon re-entering the country Cruz was told there was a problem with his social security number. Then, he and his then fiancé were surrounded by TSA agents and questioned separately regarding their vacation and about a long-forgotten incident from 1991 when a fifteen-year-old Cruz naively decided it would be fun to make a homemade incendiary device.
Even though at the time all charges against Cruz were dismissed and he returned to the normal, law-abiding life of a suburban teen in south Florida, unknowingly his name had been placed on a government watch list thanks to the USA PATRIOT Act. The Patriot Act was signed into law by George W. Bush in October 2001. It was a law drastically reducing restrictions on law enforcements’ ability to secretly amass information on and search American citizens.
“Try being on a list and see how it changes your attitude. I am on a list. I am an American. I have a job. I have two dogs and I live with my wife and I’m on a list. No reason except being a teenager and boys will be boys [type of] thing,” Cruz says.
A graduate of The Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Cruz had an innate proclivity towards drawing, painting and wielding a camera from a young age. He pursued filmmaking so he could tell stories he felt were important while also incorporating his love of martial arts.
Cruz’s passion for martial arts, and namely the Filipino art of Kali Silat, is also what makes GRTF a great action series. The fight sequences are more believable and richly choreographed then any before witnessed from a series with such a modest budget.
“We didn’t want it to look staged. We wanted it to look very street. That’s the thing with Filipino martial arts, is that it’s very much geared towards street fighting; not cage fighting or movie fighting,” Cruz says about the series’ fight sequences.
The enviable fight sequences are also in large part due to lead actor Willie B. Laureano, who also happens to be a Guro (meaning teacher) of Filipino martial arts, Muay Thai kickboxing and tactical and military combat fighting techniques. He has also been featured in such films as Sinners and Saints, The Sensei and The Prodigy.
Cruz and the series’ lead actor, Laureano, met while studying martial arts at the Inosanto Academy, a school started by Guro Dan Inosanto. Dan Inosanto was the friend and sparring partner of Bruce Lee and also a well respected master of various martial arts styles and a foremost instructor in Jeet Kun Do.
“Immediately when I saw the guy he’s got a great look. He’s really talented as hell. A great attitude. Everything. He’s like a movie star waiting to explode,” Cruz says of his martial arts muse Laureano.
They were set to work on a feature action film called Song of the Knife but the project hit some financial roadblocks and got stuck in development. Cruz kept Laureano in mind for other projects, stating, “I can’t say enough great things about the guy. He’s a lot like Bruce Lee. He’s got the look. He’s got the charm. He’s got the talent. He won’t say this; I think he’s at the master level. Like any master, he’ll humbly say he’s not a master.”
Laureano does have an intensity and sharp fighting skill that is reminiscent of Bruce Lee. He even studied alongside Bruce Lee’s son Brandon Lee in the late 80’s at the now defunct Kali Academy in Torrance, CA. That was the origins of the school which would later switch several locations and be renamed the Inosanto Academy.
Laureano lost touch with the Inosanto Academy and the Kali training he had started as a young child in the Philippines. Then, in the early 90’s, through a chance reunion with Brandon Lee at an upscale men’s clothing store, Laureano returned to his calling of martial arts.
“I was at the Beverly Center working at Armani and Brandon came in. He didn’t remember me but he was that type of guy,” Laureano says about the encounter.
Brandon Lee had already found success in the film industry and although he hadn’t seen Laureano since the Kali Academy days he stayed to chat with Laureano and wrote down the information for the Inosanto Academy.
That was the spark leading Laureano to a career shift into becoming a Guro of Kali and eventually to various movie roles through friendships formed in training and teaching.
Laureano protests, “I am not an actor. It’s through friends I knew that I ended up doing roles. It’s not something I am pursuing. I am a martial artist and the acting is something fun to do on the side.”
Whether he is pursuing acting or not, Laureano seems to find himself in the midst of various movie roles thanks to his enviable skills in martial arts and his striking on-screen presence. He exudes an intensity and natural ease in front of the camera not readily seen in many untrained acting hobbyists.
Before moving to the states, becoming a budding movie star and a respected teacher with many adoring students, Willie Laureano was born in Tondo and grew up in the mean streets of Navotas in the Philippines.
“In the Philippines the fights come to you,” Laureano says of his childhood home. “It’s not a fun place. There’s some great parts of it but there are also some tough parts of it. I didn’t know how tough it was until I left it.”
Laureano was a young teen in the Philippines during the late 70’s when political turmoil, oppression, corruption and human rights violations stifled the nation under the dictatorship run by Ferdinand Marcos.
Laureano and his family defected to the United States before the fall of Marcos, but he still was able to bravely take a stand against the dictator. Laureano says he is proud to have been part of what he calls “one of the most powerful, nonviolent revolutions,” referring to the mass marches held in protest against Marcos and his regime.
“I see myself now as an American,” Laureano declares. “And I’m willing to protect this country because what it has done for me I could not have done in the Philippines. I have a respect and loyalty for this country because of what it afforded me to have, but the Philippines is who I am also.”
He goes on to say, “You read the Constitution and you feel the emotion of the forefathers. You feel what they had to go through. And you read the history and you read in between the lines. The suffering of the early Americans. There are so many things and if you take their story and apply it to so many countries these days. That’s what is happening. And you see Egyptians and Libyans saying, ‘no more.’ And they have a right to. If it happened there, it could happen here. There are more people now that are poor. There are more people now that are homeless. There are more people now that cannot afford gas…People are getting desperate.”
Finally, the opportunity arose for Cruz to work again with Laureano when he started developing the web series GRTF. He asked Laureano to play the lead role of a former special ops soldier in a post-apocalyptic America after a second revolutionary war.
“To some degree we have an intersection in our beliefs; in our concerns. We are both patriots and what that means is we are American. We care about this country,” Laureano says about his collaboration with Cruz. “We care not just about the political situation but how we contribute to the world politically.”
In the fictional scenario of GRTF, Laureano states, “The political climate had changed from the free America into a controlled country.”
He insists it’s not an anti-government scenario but more a tale warning against the potential for certain cells who might take over the government and people’s apathetic attitudes towards the socio-political climate which surrounds them.
“We like the way we have our structure, that the people choose the leaders. We enjoy those things. That’s America. That’s what our forefathers created for us, but in our scenario, that had been taken away from us” Laureano continues.
On doing this film project with Cruz, Laureano says, “We want people to see us as thinking people rather than extremists, because that’s what we’re not. We are not extremists. We are storytellers. And we took a story, a possibility, and we made it extreme to make a film.”
Laureano adds, “At the end of this I am hoping that people will question laws and government. How people are trying to govern, not their government, but just how people are trying to govern.”
In conclusion, Cruz sums up his work saying, “It is kind of like a warning sign but ultimately it is a work of fiction and this kind of world does not have to happen. We can create our own future really.”
As with any revolution, Cruz is hopeful of a better future, saying, “I’m bringing a lot of different artists and artwork to the show as much as possible because along with a revolution there’s always a renaissance, meaning there is always a reform in the arts which is great and it’s time for one.”
What did you think of this review?
Fun to Read
About the reviewer
Aphro Do A Ditty (AphroditeM)
"Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie, Which we ascribe to Heaven."
Consider the Source
Use Trust Points to see how much you can rely on this review.