In 2012, Maria Ressa founded the Filipino news platform Rappler, which now features reporting by more than a hundred journalists. Rappler denounced the murders of alleged, often poor drug users, carried out with impunity at President Rodrigo Duterte’s bidding in the name of his “War on Drugs.” The platform also uncovered fake social media accounts spreading disinformation for Duterte’s benefit. In retaliation, Ressa was subjected to personal threats and slander, not least from the authoritarian leader himself.
A fascinating aspect of the film is its portrayal of both Ressa’s efforts and those of the opposing camp. We follow influencer Mocha Uson, who openly posts propaganda in the service of the government, and former general “Bato” Dela Rosa (“Yes, I will kill for the president”) interspersed with excerpts from Ressa’s interviews with Duterte and conversations with other Rappler journalists. The film paints a vivid portrait of a tenacious journalist and CEO, who was named Time Person of the Year in 2018. At the same time, it provides insight into the universal tactics used by populist leaders to manipulate the truth.