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Brillante Mendoza tackles the war on drugs in Amo

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AWARD-WINNING director Brillante Ma. Mendoza returns to the small screen with a 12-episode miniseries focusing on the administration’s ongoing “war on drugs” this August.

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Titled, Amo (Boss), the miniseries — which will start airing on TV5 on Aug. 20 — will focus on different players in the government program that has so far killed thousands of suspected drug users and peddlers during official police operations and vigilante killings.

Newcomer Vincent Rillon plays a high school drug pusher who sells crystal meth or “shabu” initially to his peers before moving on to a larger market in Metro Manila. Allen Dizon joins the cast as a corrupt junior police officer and Rillon’s uncle who bails him out on drug charges, while Derek Ramsay plays the role of an undercover cop.

It shows the “controversies revolving around the Philippine National Police in the government’s campaign against drugs, as well as its role in rightfully enforcing it,” said a press release.

“It’s different from anything I’ve done… each episode will focus on a different character,” Mr. Mendoza told the media during a press conference on July 25 at the Seda Vertis North Hotel in Quezon City.




The series was shot much like a film would be, Mr. Mendoza said. “It’s TV with film treatment, it’s not like a TV series,” he explained. Mr. Ramsey commented it was different working with Mr. Mendoza whom he described as someone who “doesn’t have a script. He just tells you what to do.”

“In one scene, he asked me to run outside a mall. I was holding gun and the camera was on a scooter. The security guards didn’t know we were shooting [the series] so they really ran after me,” he said.

Much like Ma Rosa, Mr. Mendoza’s 2016 drama film which competed at the Cannes International Film Festival and won Jaclyn Jose a Best Actress award, Amo deals with drugs and their effects on Filipino society.

In fact, one might hazard to say that Amo is a loose sequel to Ma Rosa as some of the cast in the film are also in the TV series, notably Felix Roco.

“[Ma Rosa and Amo] have the same writers, same cast and crew,” Mr. Mendoza said.

“This has been a long-time coming. We’ve been wanting to finish this [series for a while]… we feel it’s something different [because] it had the gritty and real treatment [trademark of Mr. Mendoza],” said TV5 CEO Vincent “Chot” Reyes, adding that if the series does well, it might be given a multi-season nod from TV5 executives.

“This is not propaganda because propaganda is when you are favoring a certain view. When you show two sides of the coin, that’s not propaganda,” Mr. Mendoza said after it was pointed out during the press conference that he also directed the TV coverage of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s second State of the Nation Address.

“If you look around, and I’m sure you read the news, you’ll recognize we have a problem, so it’s good we’re finally having a show like this [that tackles the problem],” he said.

Amo will also be going the international festival route but unlike the free TV version which will be shown here, it will be a festival director’s cut that will be “two minutes longer with a different edit and new footages” as “there are some scenes not for free TV,” Mr. Mendoza said.

Amo premieres on Aug. 20, 9:30 p.m., on TV5.

TV5 is a wholly owned subsidiary of MediaQuest Holdings, Inc. Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of MediaQuest Holdings, has a stake in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls. — Zsarlene B. Chua