EDITORIAL: ‘Amo’ provides glimpses to reality

The first ever Philippines-made film to be shown on global streaming giant Netflix is making some people uneasy.

For that, there is this petition to cancel the series from Netflix. For what? This film is showing glimpses of what the illegal drugs problem has become in the Philippines, and because of that, it has actually put some people uneasy on their seats. However, those protesting the film maintains it is sending wrong signals.

So what is this film all about? It’s told this way. AMO tells the story of Joseph, a high school student who starts out as a small-time “shabu” peddler, whose involvement in the drug trade eventually gets him entangled in the violent and dangerous circle of drug lords, crooked cops, and corrupt government officials. The film is created by award-winning director Brillante Mendoza who is the Philippines’ best-known film director, who is credited for his masterpieces like “Service,” “Kinatay” and “Thy Womb.” His most recent success is at the Cannes Film Festival via “Ma Rosa.” Amo is acclaimed as a timely production which highlight the controversial war on drugs launched by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Outside Mendoza’s impressive credentials as a filmmaker is his background as a supporter of President Duterte. He has directed Duterte’s first two State of the Nation Addresses. Nevertheless, Mendoza believes that Amo would depict a “necessary” campaign against illegal drugs that has been criticized for allegedly curtailing human rights.

A mother, whose son was killed by unknown assailants after he was accused of peddling drugs, recently started a Change.org petition calling on Netflix to cancel the show. Luzviminda Siapo, mother of Raymart Siapo who died in the illegal drugs war, started a petition that has gathered by far a measly 3,800 signatures to stop the film which debuted on the worldwide audience last April 8. The petition did help Amo to get more leverage in the international audience of the wide-reaching Netflix platform.

Netflix’s response is simply shrugging of the petition saying that it offers a diverse choice for consumers to decide on what, where and when they want to watch. Netflix said it understands that viewers may have opposing opinions but at the end of the day, they will leave it to viewers to decide. Netflix also gave the world its blockbuster hit “Narcos” series which tells the story of Colombia’s bloody campaign against illegal drugs. So, far, Netflix had gone three seasons with Narcos.

Watching the film Amo actually provides audience a glimpse of how the illegal drug trade has evolved in the country and the different modus operandi used by drug peddlers. It also showed the extent of the trade from private business to government officials to police, to the youth and the very young children used as “runners” whether by choice or not. It’s an eye-opener for people to see how deep the problem is and what complicates it.

The film should not be treated with political preference as one’s yardstick to accept it or not. Rather, one must view it with the mindset of understanding the complexity of the problem and the urgency to make action. It’s funny how people can be fooled to follow a fictional series like the Fernando Poe-inspired Probinsyano but cannot take the more surreal Amo.

Not everyone can watch Amo on Netflix though most especially the poor who cannot afford its subscription. This film is worth watching and if only it can be shown on moviehouses or on government stations for free, it would surely serve its purpose which is to educate.