President Rodrigo Duterte has used his brash personality and a drug war to inflict a stranglehold on Philippine politics and epistemology. Having been president for four painful years, his strengthened his grip on his country through strategy. The year prior was an election year, and he unleashed a few of his minions to run for senate. Thankfully, there are some thorns in his side.
One of those thorns is Maria Ressa, a journalist and co-founder or Rappler.com. Another is Samira Gutoc, a Muslim woman openly criticizing Duterte’s sexism. A Thousand Cuts is a documentary that follows both sides, but they are cheering more for the latter. Both women are fighting for freedom of speech and of the press, for democracy.
These three subjects alone would have made A Thousand Cuts into a compelling documentary, so it is too bad that it keeps adding more into the mix. One of these is Maria Leonor or Leni Robredo, who deserves to have her own documentary, a solid eighty-minute version of it, instead of being a cameo in this two-hour long mess.
A Thousand Cuts got mixed reviews on Sundance. Some of the valid negative criticism thinks that this movie does not really have an ending, which I disagree with. The problem with this film is that it does not know where to or where not to expand. Instead of adding subjects, it should have instead focused on the two separate worlds that it portrays.
Ressa is an expert both on social media and on real life social circles. The documentary contrasts those scenes with Duterte’s minions’ boorish rallies. Every festival has a movie like this. And this specific movie only shows the populist mess instead of pointing out where that vile spill is coming from.