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#NeverAgain: 5 biographical documentaries to educate people about martial law

By Daniel Aloc Published Sep 08, 2022 11:34 am

Biographical documentaries play a vital role in educating the public about the lives and struggles of those who lived through martial law.

These should serve to counter the narrative that one should have lived during the martial law years in order to understand the situation then.

In a country beset by fake news and misinformation, the following biographical films serve as a record of important events during martial law and contribute to truth-telling.

Portraits of Mosquito Press (2015) 

This documentary by JL Burgos is about the history of Mosquito Press, the alternative press that Jose Burgos Jr. (the filmmaker's father) spearheaded, and the struggle for press freedom during martial law, when media was controlled by the state and those who dared to criticize the government were either jailed or silenced. It also tackles the desaperacidos or enforced disappearances that have persisted in every administration since the fall of the Marcos regime.

Watch Portraits of Mosquito Press’ Trailer below.


Signed: Lino Brocka (1987) 

A film about the life and career of the renowned filmmaker and activist Lino Brocka. From his Catholic upbringing to his homosexuality to his work as a missionary in a leper colony to his political activism, which led to his arrest and imprisonment in 1984, Brocka relates with director Christian Blackwood how his experiences shaped his films.

The National Artist felt so strongly against the regime’s censorship and disregard of human rights that he had this to say when asked about the Marcoses: "No tears for them, absolutely no tears. I think they should have been killed, and as far as killing them I would volunteer to be in the firing squad." 

Watch an excerpt from Signed: Lino Brocka below.

Lean – In the Line of Fire is the Place of Honor (2021)  

Directed by Malu Maniquis and produced by the University of the Philippines' Sandigan para sa Mag-aaral at Sambayanan (SAMASA) Alumni Association, the film celebrates the life and times of prominent student leader and founding secretary-general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) Leandro Alejandro.

Along with Senator Jose Diokno and Lorenzo Tañada, Lean was one of the key figures in the anti-dictatorship movement. Lean premiered on YouTube in August 2021.


Played in the closing credits is Bong Ramilo's song which remembers the slain activist. 

Edjop (1986) 

The top prize winner at the first Gawad CCP Para sa Alternatibong Pelikula at Video, this Joe Cuaresma film follows the life and struggle of student leader-turned-rebel Edgar "Edjop" Jopson. The documentary highlights the terrors of martial law that Edjop had to face as a labor organizer, and later on as a member of the revolutionary movement, when he made significant contributions to the struggle of the people of Mindanao. He was killed by state forces in Davao in September 1982 at the age of 34.

Watch Edjop on Cinemata.


Dahling Nick (2015) 

The life and works of one of the country's greatest writers Nick Joaquin are explored in this docu-drama film directed by Sari Dalena and produced by Keith Sicat. It documents how Nick stood against the Marcos regime and accepted the National Artist Award for Literature as a condition for the release of his young friend and writer Pete Lacaba. Among those interviewed in the film are F.  Sionil Jose, Bienvenido Lumbera, Jose Maria Sison, Butch Dalisay, Danny Dalena, Recah Trinidad, Pete Lacaba, Marra PL. Lanot and Elena Roco.