FRONTLINE: On The President’s Orders
Airs Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV + Thursday, Oct. 10 at 10 p.m. on KPBS 2
Monday, October 7, 2019
Credit: Courtesy of Olivier Sarbil/FRONTLINE
“Kinetic, pavement-pounding….A wholly cinematic, sensory experience”—Variety
“Chilling, unflinching”—Cinema Axis
“A nail-biting investigative look at Philippines strongman Rodrigo Duterte’s deadly 'war on drugs'” —Filmmaker Magazine
Following acclaim on the international festival circuit, FRONTLINE presents the U.S. broadcast premiere of “On The President’s Orders,” a searing, on-the-ground look inside President Duterte’s bloody campaign against suspected drug dealers and users in the Philippines.
Shot in the style of a thriller, the film is based on unprecedented access to the police themselves, as well as President Duterte’s own statements and speeches, and time spent with victims – exposing a murky world where crime, drugs, poverty and politics converge.
While filming over several months in Manila, award-winning directors James Jones and Olivier Sarbil ("Mosul") examined the continuing suspicions that police have been carrying out extrajudicial killings – despite Duterte promising to scale back his war on drugs.
In addition to speaking with the families of drug users and victims, Jones and Sarbil embedded with a police unit in Caloocan, Manila, offering an unfiltered glimpse into their world and the officers’ modus operandi.
“When you’re really embedded with people, they just forget you’re there; you’re getting the real essence of who they are. Our aim was to get inside the heads of the men who were implementing Duterte’s brutal war on drugs on the streets of Manila,” Jones says.
“We had to gain the trust of the people and police in Manila,” says Sarbil. “At a certain point we were able to go in and out of the police station, and we became sort of invisible.”
The film also illustrates how President Duterte’s crackdown on drug users has greatly affected the country’s most impoverished citizens — a campaign that citizen protestors say is “clearly a war on the poor.”
“If you are poor you don’t get justice,” says Manila resident Loremie Sevilla, a young woman whose brother Jonathan was shot dead in a suspected drug killing.
An observational documentary, "On the President’s Orders" combines the look and feel of a narrative feature film with a revelatory journalistic investigation into the impact of Duterte’s drug campaign and policies – which the police themselves say have led to more than 5,500 deaths.
The result is a gripping, visually stunning window into Duterte’s war on drugs – those carrying it out, and those most impacted by it.
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A FRONTLINE, PBS and ARTE France production with Mongoose Pictures in association with BBC Storyville and Bertha DOC SOCIETY. The directors are Olivier Sarbil and James Jones. The producers are James Jones and Dan Edge. The executive producer of FRONTLINE is Raney Aronson-Rath.
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