«We Hold The Line» press conference report
On October 3, 2020, the press conference dedicated to the film «We Hold The Line» by German director Marc Wiese took place. The film participates in the documentary film competition of the 42nd Moscow International Film Festival. Director and screenwriter Marc Wiese participated in the press conference.
The film tells the story of journalist Maria Ressa and her team from the news platform Rappler. Ressa lives in the Philippines and fights with the country's violent president, who executes tens of thousands of people with death squads while the country is turning into a dictatorship.
«We started working on this film in the framework of three projects devoted to democracy and political issues, including populism, covering Donald Trump among other politicians. We went to Manila with a photographer and met Maria Ressa during that shoot. I realized that our film should focus on her and Rappler. She leads the way, but there are many journalists behind her, and most of them are threatened with killing and violence, are under constant pressure on a daily basis,» Weise said.
He admitted that he and his crew could face the same problems, had they not been cunning enough.
«We couldn't tell the Manila government directly, what exactly we were doing there, otherwise we would have been deported straightaway. A couple of weeks before my first visit, a New York Times team had been thrown out of the country for the same reason. So we introduced ourselves as a team working on a BBC project dedicated to the most beautiful islands in the world. The local officials bought it,» Weise said.
Time magazine named Maria Ressa «Person of the Year» in 2018 for her fight to protect democracy. However, there are people who think that Ressa doesn't really provide quality information. The film shows how the country's president Rodrigo Duterte really leads the so-called «war on drugs», with his victims, opposition politicians and death squad members speaking out.
«Duterte's regime often uses propaganda and misinformation. During the presidential campaign, Facebook sent the company staff to the Philippines, and taught Duterte how to use their mechanisms for propaganda and counterpropaganda. We double-checked Maria’s data, because some claim that the CIA are behind Rappler. Eleven cases against her had been examined, and not a single accusation was proved. It's also a campaign strategy basing on «law and order». In 2016, during the election campaign, Duterte wanted to come across as a fighter, although I talked to experts and they all agreed that the country’s drug problems were blown out of proportion: they existed, but weren’t more serious than in Indonesia, for example. It is a bit similar to Trump’s idea of a wall between the US and Mexico which, if you take time to talk to experts and urban developers, isn’t really needed. The film explores this phenomenon, showing that the dictator himself, his family members, relatives, government officials are closely linked with drug business,» Marc Weise said.
The director, who also made films in Bosnia and North Korea, emphasized that he always bears in mind that his characters, unlike him, don't have a return ticket.
«In the first edit of «We Hold The Line», we asked Maria, «When will you be done here?», and she replied, «Maybe when I'm killed». After she saw the first draft, though, she asked me to take these words out, as some people could treat them as a call to action,» Weise said.