The war on drugs is really a war on the poor. Nowhere is more currently emblematic of this state of affairs than in the Philippines, where President Rodrigo Duterte has been waging bloody combat against drug dealers and addicts ever since his election in 2016. Except the only people actually feeling the iron rule of his law are the ones in the poorest communities, for whom drugs are just a means to survive in an uncaring society.
Within the first year, police shot 3000 suspects. So to capture this ongoing human rights atrocity, directors James Jones and Olivier Sarbil embed cameras within both the police force and a poor family living in the slums of Caloocan district, where a good deal of the bloodshed has gone down.
Having gone to the frontlines against ISIS in their previous documentary Mosul, Jones and Sarbil are no strangers to a war zone and they put you right on the ground as doors are knocked down and suspects’ homes are infiltrated. After taking heat from the rest of the world for the amount of casualties, the police force is now attempting to increase the arrests while limiting the violence, yet the excessive force and laissez-faire attitude towards civilian rights is still prevalent. Meanwhile the killings still continue, except now they’re carried out by mystery assassins that the state claims no affiliation with.
While Jones and Sarbil don’t skimp on the raw verité action, there’s a real artfulness to the film as they mix in beautifully composed imagery of Caloocan in order to stand in stark contrast to the everyday misery. And in the subject of the smugly self-satisfied police chief Jemar Modequillo, they find a shining example of how corruption trickles down from the top so that it just becomes part of the job.
- Release Date: 4/27/2019
- Directed by: James Jones, Olivier Sarbil
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