Aswang

Alyx Ayn Arumpac, 85 min, The Philippines.

When Rodrigo Duterte becomes president of the Philippines, he sets in motion a machinery of death to execute suspected drug users. Aswang follows people whose lives entwine with the growing violence.

Jomari, 6, fends for himself as he waits for his mother who is imprisoned on drug charges. The streets are a big game of survival for him, where fantasy and reality mix easily. He tells the filmmaker that the police sometimes ask him for information on drug users in his neighborhood. One day, he disappears. 

In two years, over 20,000 men, women and children are killed in Duterte’s war against drugs in the Philippines. Documenting the growing violence and traversing through Manila’s underbelly into the homes of victims, Aswang follows a little boy born into this cruel system and a man who tries to fight it. 

Brother Jun, a religious brother and a photojournalist, spends his evenings going after crime scenes and funerals to document the cases and help the people bury the dead. Being a member of the clergy in a deeply religious society, they openly pour out their stories and sorrows to him. Victims also tell him of abuses by drug enforcement police, including a secret jail where they detain and torture people to extort money. Brother Jun and his colleagues expose the secret jail, but with a disastrous aftermath.