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A PH docu about the drug war is OTW to the Oscars


You lucky cinephiles, y’all are getting more than crumbs lately: Sundance is going virtual. Fil-Am film “Yellow Rose” came home. The script for the next film in the “Heneral Luna” trilogy is done. 

And it keeps getting better because the nominations for the Academy Awards are rolling in and a Philippine entry might just bag that Oscar.

“Aswang,” an exposé on the drug war, is eligible for consideration in the Best Documentary Feature category along with 237 other titles

Directed by Alyx Arumpac, this 2019 documentary follows the polarizing effect of President Duterte’s war on drugs told through the eyes of those left behind to deal with it, who are mostly the poor.

In Philippine mythology, aswang pertains to a scary shape-shifting vampiric creature that comes out at night, and is often used to warn children against staying out late. The docu draws connections to our political landscape by likening the aswang’s frightening nature to the tokhang’s mostly nocturnal operations as fear and violence take shape in the streets. 

Tokhang refers to police drug war operations that often have government agents haul out and shoot drug suspects in their homes in the middle of the night. These extrajudicial killings are usually explained by the narrative that the suspects fought back and were killed in a shootout with cops. 

There are other docus about the drug war, like “On the President’s Orders” and “The Nightcrawlers,” but they’re mostly straightforward, with journalists taking viewers through what happened and feeding the facts. “Aswang” attempts to show the horrors of tokhang in a uniquely Filipino narrative with a mythical device mirroring reality. 

Before this possible Oscars nomination, “Aswang” has already been raking in recognition. At the 2020 Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences Awards, it won Best Picture, Best Documentary, Best Editing, and Best Cinematography. At the 12th DMZ International Documentary Film Festival, it won the White Goose Award, the grand prize. So y’all know this docu is a strong contender.

The list will still be reviewed and shortlisted by the Academy’s Documentary Branch. Fifteen shortlisted films will be announced on Feb. 9, so fingers crossed that “Aswang” makes it.


Read more:
These award-winning docus reveal the real state of our nation
10 Daang Dokyu films getting us schooled on our nation’s rich (and painful) history
How were we not taught these stories in Philippine history class?


Still from “Aswang”



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