Sheffield Doc/Fest Review: Aswang

During Rodrigo Duterte election campaign to become the President of the Philippines he promised to kill thousands upon thousands of criminals and eradicate crime within the country. Whatever you think about the controversial figure, he was certainly true to his word. Since he came to power in 2016, and subsequently issued a shoot to kill order, his death squads have been responsible for the extrajudicial killing of countless drug users and low-level dealers.

In Filipino folklore an Aswang is a term to describe a number of evil spirits, including ghosts, vampires and werewolves. These shapeshifters come out at night and prey on the vulnerable and defenceless. In Alyx Ayn G. Arumpac’s documentary of the same name they act as a metaphor for Duterte’s police, who stalk the streets after dark. The term Aswang now serves as a warning to on the streets of Manilla.

Arumpac follows a cast of characters on the outskirts of the capital, looking for shadows in the dark corners.  As we follow her camera through the city, an air of malice and danger permeates the streets. Haunts the morgues and quiet places. The police force is not there to serve the community. They’re there to terminate without consequence. Aswang is a depressing and eerie documentary about what can happen when no one is there to protect you.

Aswang is streaming now as part of Sheffield Doc/Fest.

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