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‘Dune’ features Filipino martial art in fight scene

By Kara Santos Published Oct 27, 2021 1:45 pm

The science fiction film Dune features a combat style based on a Filipino martial art, according to its director.

In a video released by The New York Times on Saturday (Oct. 23), director Denis Villeneuve said that an action scene between Timothée Chalamet and Josh Brolin borrows from the martial art technique Balintawak Eskrima, also known as Balintawak Arnis.

In the NYT video feature “Anatomy of a Scene,” the filmmaker broke down the sparring scene between characters Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin) and Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet) with Villeneuve explaining that “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.”

Crediting fight coordinator Roger Yuan for designing the choreography, Villeneuve said: “He developed the Atreides fighting style borrowing from a martial art technique developed in the ’50s. This technique was called balintawak eskrima. It’s a style that involves blocking the opponent’s attack with both a weapon and the free hand,” Villeneuve explained.

Balintawak Arnis is a Filipino martial art created by Grandmaster Venancio "Anciong" Bacon in the 1950s to enhance and preserve the combative nature of arnis, also known as Kali or Eskrima/Escrima, the national martial art of the Philippines.

The scene, which takes place inside a combat training room, was filmed as if it were a dance performance, according to the director.

“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,” said Villeneuve, crediting cinematographer Greig Fraser.

Dune is the latest Hollywood movie to feature some form of Arnis, following blockbuster hits like Mission: Impossible III, the Bourne series, Kick-Ass, The Old Guard, and Raya and the Last Dragon, among others.

The latest film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s futuristic 1965 science-fiction novel Dune, debuted last week overseas in theaters overseas and on HBO Max to critical acclaim.

Dune will be the first major theatric release in the Philippines since the pandemic started. It is set to be released locally on November 10 when cinemas reopen.

On Wednesday, Legendary Pictures announced that the sequel for the film is in the works. Dune Part 2 has been greenlighted for an Oct. 20, 2023 theatrical release with director, producer and co-screenwriter Denis Villeneuve returning.