Manila (CNN Philippines Life) Kapag sinabi nilang may aswang, ang ibig sabihin nila: matakot ka.
The central metaphor of the newest full-length documentary on the Duterte administrations war on drugs campaign isnt just apt; it resonates true to the Filipino experience, like a gong in any locals psyche.
As the first Filipino-directed full-length documentary, it draws parallels with the aswang not just as a vampiric, shape-shifting monster of folklore, but also as a CIA creation for fear-mongering, and as a real-life marauder that mimics the behavior of something out of lower mythology, disguised and clandestine.
Even now during the community quarantine, there are rumors that Iloilo and West Visayan officials are using aswang scare tactics to help impose the curfew against the locals.
In the late 2010s, director Alyx Ayn Arumpac was in Europe for a few years, completing her Docnomads Erasmus Mundus Joint Master in Lisbon, Budapest, and Brussels. But she came home in 2015 sans job, later on witnessing how Rodrigo Duterte was elected president. To make ends meet, she took projects and production gigs, while she accompanied her friend, the photojournalist Raffy Lerma (both were former Philippine Collegian colleagues), to his nightwatch rounds on the police and city beats, curious about the rumors of extrajudicial killings.
What Arumpac witnessed on those ride-alongs convinced her of the need for a Filipino perspective on tokhang. Her full-length documentary would not just tackle the emotional heft of the horrid event, but also attempt an expression of her feelings on it that might, she hoped, eventually exorcise her own demons.
From 2016 until post-production in 2019, Arumpac and her crew took to the streets from late night to dawn and bore witness. This was the seed of "Aswang," a joint effort from institutions in France, Norway, Qatar, and Germany that pooled their resources and funding for its completion. First shown at the prestigious International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), it was supposed to have its local premiere in March 2020s Daang Dokyu festival before the lockdown against COVID-19 cancelled all events.
The documentary follows characters whose fates entwine with the growing violence during two years of killings in Manila. The two central ones are Brother Jun Santiago of the Redemptorist Brothers and the young street kid Jomari.
Santiagoworks not just to document the killings but also helps in the funeral and burial fees for those who are left behind, often poor and almost destitute. While Jomari tells the story of the drug war kids, the orphans and the abandoned youth, since in Jomaris case both his mother and father are in prison for drug-related charges. Its pretty good serendip, too, that the filmmaker met Jomari at the wake of Kian Delos Santos.
There is a third character in this trinity: a woman who confesses to being imprisoned inside the secret jail behind the bookshelf and filing cabinet in a police station in Tondo. Like some ghost she only appears in shadow, close shots of her arms and hands as she draws the cramped layout of the cell on a notebook, filled to the nooks with her fellow prisoners.
"Aswang" can be a bit meandering at first, mostly since it assumes you know the major peaks and valleys of the tokhang chronicles from Kian Delos Santos murder and the rise of the tandem shooting modus, to the secret bookshelf jail and the funeral parlors that deal with the influx of the dead.
"Aswang" director Alyx Ayn Arumpac. Photo by MATTEO GARIGLIO
The two major, and arguably more popular, foreign-made documentaries on the drug war are National Geographics "The Nightcrawlers" (U.K.) and PBS Frontline's "On the President's Orders" (U.S.). Theyre mostly straightforward docus of the informative this-and-that-happened type, with talking heads and arms length objectivity. In Arumpacs narrative though is something innately magic realist, something that is innately Asian rather than Western in approach and tenor. This was made for those who couldnt escape the news, who lived daily with the threat of tandem riders.
"Aswang" is a meditation on the tokhang chronicles by a local, at once sublime and gruesome. What makes this different is its point of view: the perception by a Filipino for fellow Filipinos. The tone is quite liberating, making it free to reflect our own collective feelings of frustration, grief, horror, and utter bewilderment back at us.
That it is beautifully composed of imagery worthy of the caliber of a Hollywood movie or South Korean horror cinema, Arumpac credits to her cinematographer Tanya Haurylchyk, and her editors Anne Fabini and Fatima Bianchi. She states that they truly made the gritty visions look cinematically exquisite. For Arumpac though, there was a feeling of aestheticizing the horror, a distrust of the attractive imagery that happened to be bathed in the blood of real people. Its something that the director struggled with.
That you wish this was some fictional Bong Joon-Ho movie is part of why "Aswang" is so effective. Part of what makes it very Filipino is how it hits the emotive inflection points that the other major tokhang documentaries often only casually gloss over in favor of just-the-hard-facts.
"Aswang" never lets the facts get in the way of the truth, finding a way to conjure emotive exorcism without being sentimental or forgetting the plain bloodiness of it all. Arumpac obviously knew the tragedy and sorrow of her country and her fellow Filipinos intimately. Here, she has lovingly constructed an important, unredacted record for these dark times for our own use, free of pretense or agenda.
The film just won theAmnesty International Human Rights Award at the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival. The citation for the film said:[Aswang is a]powerful denouncement against state terror, resilient and painful humanitarian stories coming from different voices, enthralling connections between the popular myth of the Aswang monster and everyday violence, poverty and death looming in the cities. A cry of despair from the marginalized, pleading for justice and human rights.
In this interview, Arumpac, executive producer for GMA News and Current Affairs,talks about the making of this powerful and riveting documentary. Opinions expressed in this interview are the subjects.
"Aswang" never lets the facts get in the way of the truth, finding a way to conjure emotive exorcism without being sentimental or forgetting the plain bloodiness of it all. Photo courtesy of ASWANG 2019
Theres a really intimate and comforting feeling that pervades the film in its tone and vibe that it was made for Filipinos. How did you adjust and manage to toe that creative line?
I insisted on this form. I insisted on the aswang, on using the metaphor. And I was told off many times, mostly by my foreign producers. And then I was told, you know, maybe we can do instead a straight reportage? Or a straight film with talking heads and everything? Just so it could be bought by broadcasters.
I was just saying: No, I still want to do the aswang; I want to do the metaphor. I think that was also basically the guide for me as to how to film it, how to approach it. And then I was very fascinated with the connections as well, the spirituality of the Filipino, since the fact that my protagonist was a priest.
Throughout the process, especially during the first month I really tried digging through my thoughts and feelings. So after every shoot I would go home at 5 a.m. or 6 a.m. and I would transfer material right away. Then I would write a bit about what happened during the day, sometimes just to make sure I had the names and locations right. Sometimes I would write about what happened. What I thought. What I felt.
Did you draw on personal experiences about the stories of the aswang?
I am from General Santos City and we lived beside a forest inside this subdivision, because it was a newly constructed subdivision. I was around eight years old, I think. One day the yaya of our neighbor said theres a sigbin [Visayan aswang variant] who roams around the village and lives in that forest. At night you need to sleep and you cant wake up, because if you do and you look at the window youll see red eyes and long nails. The windows back in the day were jalousie types. She said the sigbin would put its long clawed fingernails inside the window to get you. I was terrified for so long!
The documentary follows characters whose fates entwine with the growing violence during two years of killings in Manila. Photo courtesy of ASWANG 2019
The beauty of the cinematography really clashes with the bloody subject matter. Its a stark and very powerful contrast.
One of the things that I wrote [a few months in] and [still] remember: I was saying, you know, I always wanted to make cinematic films, beautiful films, but I wrote down that There's nothing beautiful about this. I mean, how can you make a good film out of this? Because there's nothing good about it. I even felt bad about trying to construct images, trying to construct a frame around this entire situation.
The idea of using a beast from folklore that scares makes this documentary very different and very Filipino. That kind of clarity in a nonfiction product is rare.
The entire idea of this war on drugs for me was finding a common enemy, finding a scapegoat. And that's what the president did there. No one liked the drug user and the drug dealer who would rape kids and [Duterte] made this narrative. It has always existed, but he made this narrative and then he made everyone go against this set of people. So that was his common enemy, the same way that previous generations think they went for the communists. That was very clear to me and this was also why I immediately went for this idea, as well, of the aswang.
While other foreign-made and major documentaries about the war on drugs are very different in approach, we think that Filipinos and those familiar with how the tokhang events and stories have gone may find something ritually therapeutic in watching this docu.
I have to say Filipinos will get it more. Filipinos will feel it more, and it was made that way. I didn't expect foreigners to understand all the connections of the images. But then I also had what you would call a target audience. I knew who I was making the film for, and the sooner that was clear to me then the easier I could make my decisions and the easier the rest of my team would get on board.
"Aswang" will soon be available on video-on-demand internationally.
View original post here:
- Letter to the editor | We have lost the War on Drugs - TribDem.com - November 29th, 2020
- A live treat from The War on Drugs - Livemint - November 29th, 2020
- The War on Drugs: LIVE DRUGS (Super High Quality) - review - Under the Radar Mag - November 29th, 2020
- The Drugging of the American Mind | Opinion | Northern Express - northernexpress.com - November 29th, 2020
- Five Years Ago, White Families Called For A 'Gentler War On Drugs.' Did We Get One? - TalkingDrugs - November 29th, 2020
- New music roundup: Soft Kill, Tank and the Bangas, The War on Drugs - Columbia Daily Tribune - November 29th, 2020
- Hear the first episode of the War on Drugs Super High Quality Podcast - Far Out Magazine - November 29th, 2020
- New Indie Music: The War On Drugs, Fiona Apple, And More - UPROXX - November 29th, 2020
- Ed Forchion Wages His Own War on Drugs: Sues the State of New Jersey Over Bait and Switch Cannabis Regulation Laws - Massachusetts Newswire - November 29th, 2020
- Kip Yost: Some hard things that must be done to reduce homelessness - Salt Lake Tribune - November 29th, 2020
- Will magic mushrooms go the way of cannabis? Legalization efforts are growing - Vallejo Times-Herald - November 29th, 2020
- The War On Drugs, Kings Of Leon, Cardi B among latest Mad Cool 2021 additions - Live4ever Media - Live4ever - November 29th, 2020
- Guns, Drugs and Viral Content: Welcome to Cartel TikTok - The New York Times - November 29th, 2020
- The War on Drugs has caused more harm than good - The Maine Wire - August 6th, 2020
- Police in Floyd County have new tool to fight the war on drugs - FOX 5 Atlanta - August 6th, 2020
- The Floret Coalition Is Adapting the Giving Circle Model to Help Address the Damage of the War on Drugs - Willamette Week - August 6th, 2020
- Exposing Rodrigo Duterte's War on the Free Press - Hyperallergic - August 6th, 2020
- Fighting the Yaba Pill: The Death Toll Mounts in Bangladesh's Drug War - DER SPIEGEL - August 6th, 2020
- Guardia Civil execute huge drugs bust in the war on crime in Torrevieja - Euro Weekly News - August 6th, 2020
- Death Penalty Danger in the Philippines - Human Rights Watch - August 6th, 2020
- WE'RE IN THE MONEY, MAYBE | Cap City - Illinois Times - August 6th, 2020
- China Is Waging Cyber-Enabled Economic War on the U.S. How to Fight Back. - Barron's - August 6th, 2020
- Juvenile Records Laws Must Be Reformed to Prevent Ongoing Racism - Juvenile Justice Information Exchange - August 6th, 2020
- How the Pandemic Defeated America - The Atlantic - August 6th, 2020
- The road to riches - Illinois Times - August 6th, 2020
- Dominion, Decriminalization, and Demilitarizing the Police: An Exclusive Q&A With Jennifer McClellan - rvamag.com - August 6th, 2020
- Reparations is a nonstarter in Congress. Not in this Southern city. - The Christian Science Monitor - August 6th, 2020
- Advancing Equity: Women's Crisis Center staff repeats this phrase and means it 'We are still here' - User-generated content - August 6th, 2020
- 7 of the best Steven Soderbergh films to watch right now, from crime dramas to caper comedies - Minneapolis Star Tribune - August 6th, 2020
- The hidden face of the war in Cabo Delgado - defenceWeb - August 6th, 2020
- Opinion Defining defunding the police to help our community - The CT Mirror - August 6th, 2020
- Saratoga Jewish Community Arts to present virtual panel discussion on the film '13th' - The Saratogian - July 21st, 2020
- The US 'war' on drugs - newagebd.net - July 21st, 2020
- As the War on Drugs Relentlessly Grinds On, Overdose Deaths Relentlessly Mount - Cato Institute - July 21st, 2020
- The Business of Drugs: Why The US Drug War Can NEVER Be Won - Screen Rant - July 21st, 2020
- 20 charged as part of sheriff's 'War on Drugs' - ABC 36 News - WTVQ - July 21st, 2020
- Activists take to the streets to call for marijuana legalization in N.J. - NJ.com - July 21st, 2020
- Police Murders and the War on Drugs - LA Progressive - July 21st, 2020
- Austin, Texas, Just Voted to End the Drug War - The Nation - July 21st, 2020
- The Genius Of The War On Drugs A Deeper Understanding - Guitar.com - July 21st, 2020
- Legislation Introduced That Would End Mandatory Incarceration for Nonviolent Drug Offenders - The Peoples Vanguard of Davis - July 21st, 2020
- Colombia to kick off congressional year with cocaine decriminalization bill - Colombia Reports - July 21st, 2020
- The Business of Drugs: Why Amaryllis Fox Is The Perfect Host - Screen Rant - July 21st, 2020
- How a miracle drug changed the fight against infection during World War II - The Union Leader - July 21st, 2020
- As Philippines fights coronavirus, some fear involvement of the police - Reuters - July 21st, 2020
- Netflix's The Business Of Drugs Review: Cocaine, Meth, and More | TechQuila - TechQuila - July 21st, 2020
- The People: bridging distance and differences in a pandemic - The Fulcrum - July 21st, 2020
- Covid-19 in Philippines: Police deployed to implement fresh lockdowns - The Indian Express - July 21st, 2020
- Pressure from Manipur CM Biren Singh to drop drugs case: cop to court - The Indian Express - July 21st, 2020
- The Newcastle Herald's Opinion, Thursday, July 16, 2020: What value the 'war on drugs' when substance use is 'normalised' in society? - Newcastle... - July 21st, 2020
- Decades of promised police reforms have failed to alter a culture of abuse and racism - Milwaukee Independent - July 21st, 2020
- Lessons From a Global Reckoning: D.C. Looks to Make 14-Year-Old Social Studies Standards More Inclusive as Cities Nationwide Grapple With Re-Engaging... - July 21st, 2020
- Philippines war on drugs may have killed tens of thousands, says UN - The Guardian - June 6th, 2020
- Trump Reelection Campaign Attacks Biden As 'Architect' Of The War On Drugs - Marijuana Moment - June 6th, 2020
- Dan Adams On The Racist War On Drugs, And Why Equity Licensing Matters - wgbh.org - June 6th, 2020
- The Man Who Started the War on Drugs - OZY - June 6th, 2020
- From Iceland Iceland-Backed UN Report Condemns Filipino Government's War On Drugs - Reykjavk Grapevine - June 6th, 2020
- How American Race Relations Shaped Lives of Current, Former Seahawks - Sports Illustrated - June 6th, 2020
- Gardai start special war on drugs operation in Finglas as 'horrific' day time images surface online - Dublin Live - June 6th, 2020
- Change comes from marching in streets and to the ballot box - Rockford Register Star - June 6th, 2020
- Decades of Americas drug wars led up to the riots of today - RT - June 6th, 2020
- Defund the Police - The Atlantic - June 6th, 2020
- The right is trying to link George Soros and George Floyd protests. Don't let it. - NBC News - June 6th, 2020
- Calum Marsh: Defunding the police isn't radical. It's so lucid it's a wonder it took a movement to catch on - National Post - June 6th, 2020
- It's a war on the poor why the war on drugs is still sweeping the globe - Morning Star Online - May 29th, 2020
- LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Where is NAACP's outrage toward abortion, black-on-black crime? - Anniston Star - May 29th, 2020
- Colombia to receive US Army unit on June 1 for counter-narcotics support - The City Paper Bogot - May 29th, 2020
- No time to be selling arms to the Philippines | TheHill - The Hill - May 29th, 2020
- The battle of COVID in the 'quiet war' on China | TheHill - The Hill - May 29th, 2020
- Stevenson: We have to find ways to create more equality, more opportunity, more justice - Harvard Law School News - May 29th, 2020
- US declares a vaccine war on the world - Asia Times - May 29th, 2020
- Here's new movies and shows to stream in June on Netflix, HBO Max, Hulu and Prime Video - Tulsa World - May 29th, 2020
- Kalen & Aslyn Narrate and Rekindle Their Love on Girlfriend - American Songwriter - May 29th, 2020
- Editorial: On Memorial Day, we recognize our collective debt - Los Angeles Times - May 29th, 2020
- Fighting Addiction and a Pandemic to Keep St. Louis' Unhoused Alive - Riverfront Times - May 29th, 2020
- NMS hires 225 medics in heightened war on Covid-19 - The Star, Kenya - May 29th, 2020
- War on Drugs - Timeline in America, Definition & Facts ... - May 24th, 2020
- A Hidden Origin Story of the CBD Craze - The New York Times - May 24th, 2020
- War Metaphors and the Return to Campus | Confessions of a Community College Dean - Inside Higher Ed - May 24th, 2020
- Police bust over one ton of drugs in SE Iran - Mehr News Agency - English Version - May 24th, 2020