Many are excited about Netflix’s first Philippine-produced show that dramatizes the country’s ongoing war on drugs but a recent statement from its director has some questioning what kind of portrayal it will be.
The show titled Amo (Boss) tells the story of high school student Joseph, a small-time shabu (meth) peddler who gets involved in the conflict between drug lords, corrupt police officers, and government officials.
It was directed by award-winning Filipino director Brillante Mendoza. He is known for gritty independent films like Kinatay (Butchered, The Execution of P), which gained him a Best Director award at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.
His other films also tackle the darker side of life in the Philippines, seemingly making him a good fit to take on a story about the war on drugs, except, well, he’s also a supporter of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
In an interview with AFP published yesterday, Mendoza called the president’s controversial war on drugs “necessary” and said that he created the show to present another perspective on the issue.
“Yes, it [the drug war] is necessary for the Philippines — not only for the Philippines but also other countries afflicted with the drug problem,” Mendoza told AFP. “The reason why I did this is so people can see the other side of the coin,” he said. According to Mendoza, the series shows the point of view of the “victims” and the “victimizers.”
This isn’t the first time the director expressed support for the drug war, which the police said has killed close to 4,000 people since 2016, even though human rights groups said the number is closer to 13,000.
In 2016, Mendoza told AFP that Duterte is often misunderstood by foreign media and that if critics only knew how bad the drug problem was, they would see that the crackdown was necessary.
“I know there are a lot of people who are not supportive in totality of what he wants and what he’s doing right now, but if you actually have witnessed the real situation, this is the way to go about it,” he said.
He also said that research for another one of his Cannes-winning films is what gave him this perspective. His film, 2016’s Ma’ Rosa, is about a mother who sells crystal meth to support her family and make ends meet.
Mendoza, who directed Duterte’s first two State of the Nation Addresses, also worked on two anti-drug short films for the government in 2016.
But in an interview with the BBC, Mendoza assured that the Netflix series is more than just Duterte propaganda. “As a filmmaker stepping into this project, I want to tell truthful stories. I don’t care about politics,” he said.
Amo will be available on Netflix starting Monday, April 9. That’s a holiday so you’ll have just enough time to binge the entire 12-episode series and decide if it was a balanced portrayal or glorified propaganda. Let us know what you think after by commenting below or tweeting us @CoconutsManila.