Basurero is inspired by an actual Filipino fisherman, who in an Al Jazeera interview reveals that he has been dumping bodies of drug war victims for the police into Manila Bay. This infamous drug war was instigated under current President Rodrigo Duterte, when he took office in June 2016. With the official death count in 2020 — now above 5,000. Whereas, human rights groups are quoting over 27,000.
What attracts me to Bong’s story is not only the inhumane killings and the vilification of drug-users, sellers, and the poor in the Philippines but how this character’s circumstance is a window into the complex Filipino psyche’s search for value. I have been exploring this within myself, as a Filipina, firstborn in the United States — growing up with parents who immigrated to the superpower that colonized them.
My own cathartic trajectory has been deciphering this identity, finding meaning in self-value, and owning a voice as a storyteller of color.
In filming Basurero, we kept an observational stance, thus creating space for contemplation as we move with our main character through his day.
I strongly feel that the wounded psyche of the colonized needs to be explored, the stigma is broken and the pain healed. How can we be vulnerable, heal the past, feel deeply — own and fight for our self-worth? How do we claim and embrace this value and take up space in this world?