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James Jones and Olivier Sarbil and Face2Face host David Peck talk about their new film On The Presidents Orders, ego and vanity, trust and inconvenient complexities, the war on and drugs, poverty and activism.

Playing at Hot Docs 2019


From acclaimed investigative filmmakers James Jones and Olivier Sarbil (Mosul, 2017) comes On The President’s Orders, the searing story of President Duterte’s brutal campaign against drug dealers and users in the Philippines. Shot in the style of a thriller, this observational film combines the look and feel of a narrative feature film with a real-life journalistic investigation into a campaign of killings.

In May 2016, Rodrigo Duterte won a landslide presidential victory in the Philippines, promising to eradicate the country’s drug problem by whatever means necessary. His ensuing drug war has led to the deaths of thousands of alleged drug dealers and users. When a new police chief, Jemar Modequillo, is brought in to clean up the infamous Caloocan district of Manila, Jones and Sarbil gain unprecedented access to both the police and the desperately poor neighborhood they operate in. Modequillo’s aim is to curb the bloodshed by boosting actual arrests of suspected traffickers and users.

Filmed over almost a year, the film investigates the activities of Modequillo’s force, as it gradually becomes clear that even though the president and the police have promised an end to the extra-judicial killings, deaths continue and many suspect the police are still behind it.

For more info on the film head here.

About the Directors:

James Jones is an award-winning British director who makes documentary films for international television and theatrical release. His documentaries tackle important issues through powerful personal stories told in a filmic style and narrative. He has made films about police shootings in America, suicide in the military, wars in Ukraine and Gaza, and undercover investigations in Saudi Arabia and North Korea. His background in current affairs investigations means the films still have a hard journalistic edge while using the craft techniques of documentary.

His films have won two Emmys, three DuPonts, a Grierson, a Rory Peck, a Frontline Club, a Royal Television Society, a Broadcast Award, two Overseas Press Club of America, two Golden Nymphs, and a Venice TV Award, as well as being nominated five times at the BAFTAs. Recently, he co-directed the Emmy-winning Mosul with Olivier Sarbil.

Olivier Sarbil is an award-winning French documentary director and Emmy-winning cinematographer based in London. Over the past decade, Olivier has covered conflicts and critical social issues across Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and North America. With strong visual storytelling, Olivier’s films are intimate and human, conveying emotions through beautiful and cinematic imagery.

His work has been recognised with awards from a variety of organisations, including, Emmy for Outstanding Cinematography, DuPont, Royal Television Society, One World Media, Overseas Press Club of America, Broadcast Awards, Bayeux-Calvados for war correspondents (twice), Golden Nymph, Rory Peck, Venice TV Award, Frontline Club, Grand Award and Gold Medal at the New York Festivals International TV & Film. His imagery has also garnered a BAFTA Nomination for Best Cinematography.

Image: Copyright James Jones and Olivier Sarbil and Mongoose Pictures. Used with permission.

Theme Music: Copyright David Peck & Face2Face. Used with permission.

For more information about David Peck’s podcasting, writing and public speaking please visit his site here.

With thanks to Josh Snethlage and Mixed Media Sound.