Due to the rampant killings of journalists, the Philippines has earned the notoriety for the Philippines as the most dangerous place in the world for media workers. According to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), 143 journalists have been killed since the ouster of dictator Ferdinand Marcos's regime in 1986. A total of 137 journalists were slain during the nine-year term of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Given the grave occupational hazards that journalists face today, it's admirable that they still choose to speak the truth. The same is true of director Joel Lamangan and writer Bonifacio Ilagan who tackle this controversial issue in their latest film.
Deadline: The Reign of Impunity follows five journalists in their struggle to expose the corrupt ways of a well-heeled and well-connected politician. Henry (Luis Alandy), a columnist for a major newspaper, is writing about a political dynasty in Mindanao that is receiving personal favors from the Palace. He receives reports from Azad (Allen Dizon) and Claire (Ina Feleo) from the Mindanao Weekly Herald.
When the powerful governor of Abdul Rabb (Tirso Cruz III) hears about the exposé, he sends his trigger-happy henchmen to silence the three journalists. The next morning, Henry is found dead while Azad and Claire are missing. Newscaster Greta (Lovi Poe), Henry’s fiancée, feels that she must finish what Henry started. Together with Ross (TJ Trinidad), Henry’s acquaintance and also a journalist, they plan to reveal the true colors of the governor. Will they be successful in their exposé or will they be silenced as well?
Aside from the story of the five journalists, the back story provides a lot of insight. In the film, the governor’s family has held on to the gubernatorial seat for decades with the help of the Palace. In return, he helped the president to be re-instated into office through election fraud. He used public funds to support his private army and to live like a king.
The back story’s parallelism to real life is not mere coincidence. Although Deadline is a work of fiction, its story is based on real events. This is where it gets tricky. The film combines real events, speculations, and fiction that I suggest that you watch it with an open mind.
Director Joel Lamangan and writer Bonifacio Ilagan are treading on dangerous ground. Although names are changed, it’s easy to identify the real people behind the characters. I wouldn’t be surprised if the filmmakers are have received death threats because they have chosen to tell this story. Like the five journalists in the film, Lamangan and Ilagan are vanguards of truth who are keen on exposing the past administration’s secrets. I applaud their bravery and I hope that more films of this nature are made.
Despite my appreciation for the courage of the filmmakers for making such an important film, I wish that the story is more cohesive. Like Lamangan and Ilagan’s last film Sigwa, Deadline needs more focus. There are so many things going on. It would have been better if the story focused on either Azad and Claire or Ross and Greta. By cutting corners, the script will be a lot tighter and the film will be less dragging.
What the film lacks in focus, it makes up for with good acting. Lovi Poe proves that the acting awards she received for Mayohan is no fluke. This girl can surely act. Her passion and intensity make her turn as Greta believable and convincing. TJ Trinidad, Ina Feleo, and Allen Dizon provide good support, although I wish that Ina and Allen were given more screen time. Meanwhile, Tirso Cruz III’s portrayal of the political warlord makes for a despicable villain. I have no complaint about his acting, but I feel that the character is too one-dimensional.
*published on PEP