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Parents' Guide to

A Thousand Cuts

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 14+

Thought-provoking docu about freedom of the press.

Movie NR 2020 110 minutes
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This powerful, educational documentary exposes the challenges of being a journalist in an increasingly anti-press democracy in which leadership labels the entire media industry fake. What happens in the Philippines matters to the rest of the world, Ressa says in one interview. What Duterte is doing -- calling out the media; engaging paid trolls; pressuring his legal branch to investigate, arrest, and sue journalists; encouraging and retweeting people who ridicule and even threaten prominent journalists -- is more relevant than ever, and definitely not just in the global South or developing countries' democracies. There's a slippery slope, Ressa and the Rappler journalists explain, between suppressing the media and propagandist behavior.

Director Ramona S. Diaz does a fine job of interviewing the journalists involved and also pro-Duterte officials, like influencer-turned-government secretary Mocha Uson and General Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa, who runs for office after leading a campaign to kill drug addicts on Duterte's behalf. Despite being on the authoritarian president's side, both are humanized, with their own reasons for being pro-regime. Uson tearfully explains a tragedy in her background that makes her pro-government. Meanwhile, Dela Rosa is a candidate who says he would happily kill for his president, but he's also shown singing karaoke at a rally, playing and dancing with his followers -- even kidding around with criminals to whom he says he's giving a final chance to stop using drugs (the "or else" being that he'll have them executed in the streets). This isn't a particularly easy documentary to watch, but it's necessary, particularly when there are obvious parallels between the Philippines and the United States.

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