During his election campaign to become President of the Philippines in 2016, Rodrigo Duterte promised to eradicate the drug problem in the country. As mayor of Davao, he removed crime from the streets by employing death squads to murder drug users, petty criminals and the homeless. Since his election to the top job, he’s been good to his word; targeting the poor and low-level criminals with a campaign of zero tolerance.
Despite, or maybe because of, his hard-line approach, his popularity remains pretty high within the Philippines. Although he was democratically elected, there are few voices within the country able to hold him to account for his crimes. The press plays a pivotal role and Rappler, a website based in Manilla, has been the loudest in holding his regime to account. Its founder, Maria Ressa, and other journalists have faced the wrath of Duterte for their efforts. Their struggles are documented in A Thousand Cuts.
Whilst it is still possible to follow events within the Philippines from outside the country, A Thousand Cuts takes viewers directly into the heart of the action. Ressa is frequently detained or arrested and it’s clear the President has no compunction about killing journalists. Ramona S. Diaz’s documentary exposes the pressure and strain Rappler staff are placed under, but A Thousand Cuts makes it clear that their determination to speak the truth will never falter.
A Thousand Cuts screens at Human Rights Watch Film Festival London.