PH drug war docu ‘Aswang’ to premiere in documentary festival

Francis Toral, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 20 2020 06:25 PM

Daang Dokyu to trace the Filipino story in 100 years of docu-making

PH drug war docu ‘Aswang’ to premiere in documentary festival 1
"Aswang", a documentary on Manila's war on drugs will be screened for the first time in the Philippines. Courtesy of Daang Dokyu

MANILA -- Fresh from its successful premiere in Amsterdam, "Aswang," a documentary on the government’s war on drugs, will be screened for the first time in the Philippines at the Daang Dokyu festival next month.

Running from March 16-21 at the Cine Adarna of the University of the Philippines Film Center in Diliman, Quezon City, Daang Dokyu celebrates the centennial of Philippine Cinema by highlighting the documentaries produced in the past decades through six days of screenings, discussions and debates on the history and the road ahead for documentary-making in the Philippines.

Jewel Maranan, one of the festival directors, noted that documentaries are crucial in these times. 

“Documentaries will continue to tackle society, it will continue to take sides, it will continue to show both sides. But one thing it cannot do, it will not ignore. It will continue to capture what is happening and document more than what news has the airtime for,” she said.

Fifty-five films and documentaries, from the very old to the very new, have been selected for the first-ever documentary festival in the country, with themes ranging from environmental degradation and the climate crisis, politics in the past and politics of today, mental health, and social media.

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For "Aswang" producer Alyx Ayn Arumpac, the disturbing images and harrowing stories of the government’s bloody campaign against illegal drugs moved her to produce the documentary.

Asked what makes her documentary different from other internationally-produced stories on the drug war, Arumpac recounted an incident while she was filming. 

“Once, nag-shoot kami sa isang crime scene, may patay. Ako lang 'yung nagre-record ng audio kasi lahat photographers. Bigla, may naririnig akong nagdadasal na nanay. Sinundan ko siya. Nagdadasal siya na hindi 'yung anak niya na nawawala 'yung nakahiga na katawan. Then I realized we do have a power of telling our own stories. There is a certain understanding, mas matindi ang empathy kapag naiintindihan mo ang lahat-lahat, hindi lang lengguwahe, pati context, ‘yung buong environment mo.”

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Putting together the documentary festival has been both challenging and rewarding for the festival directors, that include Maranan, and other notable documentary producers Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala, Babyruth Villarama and Coreen Jimenez, and the curators, NCCA commissioner Teddy Co and filmmakers Sari Dalena and Jaja Arumpac.

“At first, it looked like an impossible job. How do you put together 100 years of documentaries about the Philippines? There is no database on Filipino documentary films. We had to piece things together one by one. This is a pioneering effort. Every film is a document of its time,” Co said. 

For Dalena, a film professor at the University of the Philippines, documentary-making involves risking lives at times. 

“The main reason that film students become documentary filmmakers ay 'yung kanilang pagpapanood sa mga nangyayari sa totoong buhay is something that should have a real impact on them and it will disturb them, will haunt them, and will make them ask questions. And they would want to tell those stories. In a way, we go out of our comfort zone, our box, to tell the story. Buwis-buhay siya,” she said.


As one of the festival partners, ABS-CBN will screen its best documentaries on March 19.
There will also be a master class with award-winning screenwriter Ricky Lee, and a session with ABS-CBN News Head Ging Reyes and journalists Jeff Canoy and Chiara Zambrano. 

Canoy and Zambrano produced "Di Ka Pasisiil" in 2017, a documentary on the Marawi Siege, which won the Philippines’ first Gold Dolphin from the prestigious Cannes Corporate Media and TV Awards in France.