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Films on martial law and human rights in the Philippines you can watch online right now

By Kara Santos Published Sep 21, 2021 2:16 pm

Looking for relevant films to watch about martial law? 

The Active Vista Human Rights Festival 2021 is currently holding a film festival highlighting films on the frontlines that speak truth to power to commemorate the 49th anniversary of the declaration of martial law in the Philippines

Six critically-acclaimed and award-winning films with themes of martial law, the drug war, and other relevant issues will be available for online streaming via Moov from September 21 to 30, 2021.

Their film line-up includes The Kingmaker (2019) by Lauren Greenfield, ML (2018) by Benedict Mique, Respeto (2017) by Treb Monteras, Pisay (2007) by Auraeus Solito, Aswang (2019) by Alyx Ayn Arumpac, and Tao Po (2021) by Mae P. Paner.

“These films banner the most relevant issues of our times, inviting us to look closer and beyond the headlines, and examine the social architecture and infrastructures that enable the horrors that haunt our nation,” according to festival organizers.

Tickets for each film are priced at P200. 

All films can be watched using the native browsers of your device; Safari for Mac/Apple System, Microsoft Edge for Windows, and Google Chrome for Android.

Viewers can watch the films online here: 

Here’s a closer look at the trailers and synopsis of the participating films from the festival's event page.

The Kingmaker

Synopsis: Centered on the indomitable character of Imelda Marcos, The Kingmaker examines, with intimate access, the Marcos family's improbable return to power in the Philippines. The film explores the disturbing legacy of the Marcos regime and chronicles Imelda's present-day push to help her son, Bongbong, win the vice-presidency. To this end, Imelda confidently rewrites her family's history of corruption, replacing it with a narrative of a matriarch's extravagant love for her country. In an age when fake news manipulates elections, Imelda's comeback story serves as a dark fairy tale.


Synopsis: A college student, his girlfriend, and bestfriend get more than what they bargained for when they decide to learn about the dark days of Martial Law straight from an old retired soldier who may be one of its worst abusers.


Synopsis: Amidst the chaos of Martial Law in this Third World country in the 1980s, six teenagers in the top high school for the sciences discover themselves as they go through the joys and pains of adolescence. They were the top two hundred students from all over the Philippines who passed the examination for the Philippine Science High School, which was created for the purpose of giving an education highly enriched in the Sciences to exceptionally gifted Filipino children. Selected from the best and brightest from all over the country, they endure college-level courses in biology, chemistry, mathematics, and physics from their sophomore year onwards. Those who can make it are hailed as the future science and technology leaders of the New Republic, those who don’t are deemed unfortunate victims of natural selection. They all learn however that they are neither isolated from the real world nor are they exempted from living real lives.


Synopsis: When Rodrigo Duterte is voted president of the Philippines, he sets in motion a machinery of death to execute suspected drug peddlers, users, and small-time criminals. Aswang follows people whose fates entwine with the growing violence during two years of killings in Manila.


Synopsis: Hendrix dreams of hip-hop greatness, but he’s spiraling down a rabbit-hole of crime and poverty until he meets Doc, an old poet still haunted by his martial law past. Can they turn each other’s lives around before they’re swallowed by their circumstance?

Tao Po

Synopsis: From several immersion trips and in-depth interviews conducted by performance artist-activist Mae Paner and playwright Maynard Manansala emerge four characters, four monologues that each give a human face to the issue of extrajudicial killings (EJK). A photojournalist transformed by the brutality he witnesses while covering the tokhang beat; a Zumba instructor haunted by her husband and son, both victims of summary killings; a cop who lives the double life of law enforcer and lawless hitman; and a young girl lighting candles in the “Tokhang Wall” of a Manila cemetery as she reminisces about acquaintances and loved ones, EJK victims all.

The Frontline films are co-presented by DAKILA, Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates and supported by Movies that Matter, the Human Rights Film Network, as well as Cinema Centenario and their platform MOOV. 

The UPFI Film Center is also holding free online screenings for two relevant films including Lav Diaz's Mula sa Kung Ano ang Noon (From What is Before) for two days only.

Set in 1972, the black and white film uncovers mysterious events happening in a remote town in the Philippines during the 1970s under the Marcos dictatorshop. "Wails are heard from the forest, cows are hacked to death, a man is found bleeding to death at the crossroad and houses are burned. Ferdinand E. Marcos announces Proclamation No. 1081 putting the entire country under martial law."

Watch Mula sa Kung ano ang Noon at the FDCP Channel.

The UPFI Film Center is also screening Treb Monteras' Respeto for free from September 20–21, 2021.

The politically-charged, coming-of-age hip-hop drama made its premiere at the 2017 Cinemalaya Film Festival, where it won numerous awards including best feature-length film. Respeto has received critical acclaim for its powerful use of the Filipino poetry in the form of Pinoy hip hop rap battles and Balagtasan poetry. Watch Respeto for free online here

Those who need a refresher on Philipipne history can also check out Martial Law Myths Busted with Lourd De Veyra. In this special episode, the TV personality invited experts to explain the common martial law myths that younger generations believed throughout the years. Professors, historians, politician, and experts discuss what is the truth about the Marcos regime. The episode is available to watch on YouTube.

(Images from the Active Vista Human Rights Festival)