Director of Netflix drug war series defends Duterte’s crackdown

A dramatic scene from the Netflix series Amo, which starts on Monday.

The director of a new Netflix series about President Duterte’s war on drugs has defended the crackdown as “necessary”.

Award-winning film-maker Brillante Mendoza said he hoped his series would show the point of view of the “victims” as well as the “victimisers”.

Amo, which premieres on Monday (April 9), is about a high school student who starts selling shabu and ends up caught in a terrifying world of drug lords and crooked officials.

It is the latest examination of the dark side of the Philippines from Mendoza, who is a Duterte supporter and has filmed two advertisements promoting the anti-drug campaign.

Speaking to the AFP, he said: “Yes, the drug war is necessary for the Philippines — not only for the Philippines but also other countries afflicted with the drug problem.

“The reason why I did this is so people can see the other side of the coin,” he said, “from the point of view of the ‘victims’ as well as the ‘victimisers’.”

Police have killed about 4,000 drug suspects since the president launched the crackdown nearly two years ago.

Some rights groups allege the actual number is much higher and accuse authorities of unarmed slum-dwellers. Police maintain all the deaths were in self-defence, during “shoot-outs”.

Amo, which is Filipino slang for “master”, explores the drug problem as experienced from numerous points of view.

Despite his support for the drug war, the 57-year-old director said he didn’t want the series “to look like propaganda for the government. It is not”.

Mendoza has never been afraid to tackle controversial topics, such as prostitution and corruption. His Kinatay (Butchered), for example, depicts the rape, murder and dismemberment of a sex worker and won him the Cannes best director award in 2009.

Amo was originally shot for a Philippine television until Mendoza convinced the network boss to “explore platforms other than free TV” for the series, and sent two episodes to Netflix.

“I think one of the reasons why they were interested in the material, in the story, is the way it was shot. It looks very realistic, like a documentary-style shoot and unlike your typical TV series,” he said.

“This is something based on research, and the had their input too. Our story was based on real events.”

Watch a trailer here