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The Undertaker (The Mortician of Manila)

Directed and Produced by Leah Borromeo | Director of Photography Joshua Reyles | Editor James Scott | Production Manager Laura Shacham | Location Producer Rica Conception Executive Producer Katharine Round | Executive Producers for Al Jazeera Fiona Lawson Baker Emile Guertin


Since Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte took office in June 2016, nearly 30,000* people have been killed by vigilantes and police in a campaign to “neutralise” the country’s alleged widespread crystal meth addiction. He promised to fill the country’s morgues.

Orly manages and lives at Eusebio 24hr Funeral Services in Manila, Philippines. His relationships with clients and journalists alike colour the empathy and contempt he holds for the country’s ‘drug war’ victims who, like him, are struggling to survive. One victim, Angelita, loses her son Anthony, in a suspected drug-related police killing. Arriving at Orly’s funeral parlour, she realises she cannot afford her son’s funeral. While her son lies in a wake, Angelita battles the odds, and rising flood waters, to raise more than twice the money it takes to raise her family on in a year. Meanwhile, Vincent, a photojournalist, relies upon Orly to get news of the latest killings to report in his ongoing assignments. A compelling ‘slice of life’ narrative and intimate access lends this film a sobering perspective on the lives behind the headlines surrounding Philippines President Duterte’s so-called ‘war on drugs’.

The film is also one of the first times data sonification is used in a soundtrack. It features every extrajudicial killing from 2016-2018. In it, composer Jamie Perera uses audio beats, speech excerpts and music to mark each death at the hands of police and their agents. At a rate of 33 deaths per day, the effect is jarring and disturbing.

Commissioned by Al Jazeera English. A Disobedient Films Production

 
 
 
 

FURTHER READING

Director Leah Borromeo on Salma The Boxer: "The chaos is something they did not ask for"

Leah Borromeo writes about the process of making Salma the Boxer, and how the young people from Molenbeek are countering accusations their neighbourhood is a "hotbed of radicalism"

 

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