Martial law is considered a dark time in Philippine history.
Following this historical terror, the narratives of the past became real-life stories told at present. Martial law films touch on several elements of that time based on historical accounts. It includes forced disappearances (desaparecidos), arbitrary detention, and more.
International media had paid close attention to the events of martial law, gaining more attention and traction locally and abroad. Since then, martial law films have been relevant to concerned citizens as they are based on accounts from real victims and survivors.
At present, conversations about martial law are being raised once again. To remind Pinoys of their history once again, Filipino filmmakers had made these martial law films accessible and available online for free:
1. The Kingmaker (2019)
The Kingmaker is a 2019 documentary film that follows the story of how the Marcos family worked towards repairing their family’s image to be able to return to power.
It is told through Mrs. Marcos’ narration of various events in the 1970s to 80s, which came from various interviews. The documentary progresses how the events of the past looked from the Marcos’ perspective versus the people.
Apart from the narration of the former first lady, the documentary film features victims and survivors of martial law and provides real-life accounts of what truly conspired.
In general, the documentary outlines how the Marcoses have been slowly regaining their power since the former dictator Marcos Sr. was ousted back in 1986.
2. Batas Militar (1997)
Jon Red and Jeanette Ifurung’s Batas Militar is a 1997 documentary film which outright features the human rights violations surrounding the nine-year horror of martial law.
The documentary features interviews from prominent and relevant personalities which provided their own accounts about the events when the law was in place. It focuses on the story of the Marcoses and their well-known opposition — Benigno Aquino Jr.
3. Liway (2018)
Liway is a 2018 film about Dakip, a young child who grew up with political prisoners, together with his mother Liway — a harsh critic of the government and member of the armed rebels during martial law.
Directed by Kip Oebanda, the Liway is actually based on real life accounts of its own director. Dakip — the young boy in the film — turned out to be Kip Oebanda in real life, where he tells his own story from the days of martial law.
The film showcases the forced disappearances during the time of martial law, the government’s treatment of critics, and the events during martial law told from a child’s perspective.
4. Portraits of Mosquito Press (2015)
Portraits of Mosquito press narrates the struggle to achieve press freedom during martial law. It follows Jose Burgos Jr.’s journey to exposing the truth behind the Marcos regime through the independent newspaper he established.
Together with a group of college editors, they built ‘We Forum’, an alternative newspaper. Back then, alternative press was referred to as ‘mosquito press’, of which were easily ‘swatted’. At a time of censorship where information was government-controlled, mosquito bites seemed trivial — until it did not.
Directed by J.L. Burgos, whose father was Jose Burgos Jr. himself, documents this dark memory of martial law through this film.
5. Maynila, Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag (1975)
While not directly critical of martial law and the Marcos regime, Maynila, Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag reveals the living conditions of the ordinary Filipino workers during martial law.
Contrary to the narratives of martial law being a golden time, this film subtly exposes the truth about Pinoys in the 1970s: the ordinary Filipino was terribly poor.
Directed by the acclaimed director and Marcos critic Lino Brocka, the film follows Julio as he confronts poverty and how poverty destroyed not only his life, but also his lover’s — Ligaya. The film stars award-winning actors Bembol Roco and Hilda Koronel.
6. Signos (1983)
Signos is a documentary film directed by Mike de Leon, whose works are critical of Filipino society. It features several interviews of personalities from different walks of life. Together, they narrate the events of martial law and the Marcos regime.
Apart from narration, the film also criticizes several aspects of the Marcos administration. This includes the policies during martial law, censorship, labor state, and disinformation during that time.
It brings together sentiments and analysis of interviewees across different sectors of Filipino society — including a teacher, a nun, a labor organizer, a journalist, and a filmmaker.
7. Eskapo (1995)
Eskapo follows the story of known personalities Eugenio Lopez Jr. (Christopher de Leon) and Sergio Osmeña III (Richard Gomez). During martial law, they were both falsely accused of attempting to assassinate the then-president Ferdinand Marcos Sr.
Knowing that this was far from the truth, Eugenio and Sergio together plan to escape the Philippines, away from the territory of Marcos’ dictatorial power. Directed by acclaimed artists Roy Iglesias and Jose Lacaba, the film critiques the dictatorship of the Marcos regime during martial law.
Photo Credit: https://youtu.be/5gNujHs-Gho