Review of A Thousand Cuts written and directed by Ramona S Diaz Rating *****
What if Donald Trump had won a second term? What if, feeling emboldened and surrounded by loyalists, he started to round up his opponents and have them sent to prison on trumped-up charges? That is what happens with authoritarian leaders who have no checks and balances. Putin has his political opponents assassinated or jailed.
Trump’s ascension coincided with a wave of authoritarian leaders: Putin, Kim Jong-un, Jair Bolsonaro, Bashar al-Assad, Nicolas Maduro, and Tayyip Erdogan to name a few. But none of those narcissistic leaders compare to President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines. Here is a man whose solution to the drug problem is to murder anyone tied to the drug trade, including users. More than 27,000 Philippians have been murdered. No trial. No arrest. No opportunity to defend oneself.
Duterte is Trump times ten. He is a misogynistic, narcissistic psychopath. Yet, he remains popular in the Philippines. That is not to say that he does not have critics. The problem is that those who criticize him face repercussions ranging from imprisonment to assassination.
One such critic is journalist Maria Ressa. Maria is the head of a news site critical of Duterte and his policies of fear. She has published stories about the killings and the spread of disinformation on social media. As a result of her efforts, she has faced death threats via social media and condemnation by Duterte.
The documentary follows Maria as she travels around the world, warning about the rise of authoritarian leaders and the spread of misinformation through social media. A parallel story covers the election of Senate candidates, including the political rise of Duterte’s daughter.
The film shows the dire effects that fear and misinformation have on the daily lives of Filipinos. The streets at night are mostly vacant. That’s when most of the murders take place.
The filmmakers finished the film before the pandemic. The Philippines currently have the second-highest number of Covid cases in the region.
The film ends with Maria being tried and convicted on charges of an attempted coup. She is currently serving a six-year prison sentence.
Donald Trump’s defeat may give hope to people under authoritarian leadership. We have shown that democracy can work. Duterte will eventually be held accountable for his disastrous policies. He will be tried and convicted for human rights violations. Perhaps his successor will be Maria Ressa.
You can watch the entire film, if not taken down by Youtube, below.