Arts & Entertainment

32-year-old documentary scratches wounds from failed Philippines revolution

By Sara Gómez Armas

Manila, Sep 21 (efe-epa).- The online screening of a documentary that premiered globally 32 years ago has reopened the wounds of a failed Philippines revolution following the fall of the dictatorial regime of Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.

“A Rustling of Leaves: Inside the Philippine Revolution” by Canadian filmmaker Nettie Wild tells the story of the struggle of the Communist guerrillas of the New People’s Army (NEP) and how the dreams of the Left were dashed with the coming of democracy.

The film was never screened in the Philippines until the weekend despite its success at international festivals.

Between Saturday, the 48th anniversary of Ferdinand Marcos’ declaration of martial law, and Monday, the “Daang Dokyu” film festival showcased a selection of martial law-themed documentary films for the first time, among them “A Rustling of Leaves.”

The festival website received 10,000 visitors in the first 24 hours with both “Daang Dokyu” and “A Rustling of Leaves” trending on social media with thousands of Filipinos commenting on the relevance of the documentary, which is full of parallels with the current situation in the Philippines.

The documentary shows the clandestine camps of the New People’s Army – which was born in 1969 to fight against Marcos’ fascist policies in the rural Philippines, where the hopes that democracy brought with the coming of President Cory Aquino (1986-92) were soon dashed.

The NEP felt betrayed by Cory, who backtracked on his commitment to passing a land reform that would end centuries of a feudal system that only benefits a minority and persists in the country even today, along with the guerrillas, who remain active half a century later.

But the film also gives voice to the anti-communist movement that was born during those years, which resulted in the formation of the Alsa Massa vigilante group to eliminate NEP fighters and supporters in the city of Davao, where current Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was vice-mayor and mayor for two decades.

Radio journalist Jun Pala, the spokesperson of Alsa Massa, recounts how he was inspired by Nazi propaganda strategies for his anti-communist crusade, which accompanied armed militias tasked with hunting down communists, persuading them to leave the movement and, if not, killing them

Pala himself admits in the film that Alsa Massa operated in collusion with the armed forces in Davao, led at the time by Lt. Col. Franco Calida, Duterte’s close friend and brother of José Calida, the current solicitor general of the Philippines.

Calida has become the lawyer to safeguard Duterte’s interests in power and has undertaken legal battles against the opponents of the president.

Calida is chalking a legal route to declare the NEP a terrorist group and for the campaign to prosecute left-wing activism. More than 250 social leaders and activists have been killed during the Duterte administration.

Another member of Alsa Massa in the documentary is a very young Bato de la Rosa, presently a senator and head of the national police between 2016-2018, the most violent years of the war on drugs, considered the architect of that brutal campaign together with Duterte.

“We are screening it now at Daang Dokyu, 32 years late, but it remains very relevant today. It is an important film for people seeking to understand the roots of conflicts in the country and for those concerned about the peace process,” the director of the Daang Dokyu festival, Jewel Maranan, said. EFE-EPA

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