(Manila in the Claws of Light, Philippines, 1975) by Lino Brocka
Written by: Clodualdo del Mondo; Adapted from a novel by: Edgardo Reyes; Editing: Edgardo Jarlego, Ike Jarlego; Director of Photography: Miguel de Leon; Sound: Luis Reyes, Ramon Reyes; Original Music by: Max Jocson; Produced by: Miguel de Leon Severino Manotok; Starring: Bembel Roco, Hilda Koronel, Rafael Roco Jr., Lou Salbador Jr., Tommy Abuel, Jojo Abella, Juling Badabaldo; Running Time: 124’, color; Country of Production: Philippines; Language: Tagalog with French and English subtitles.
Restored in 2013 by the World Cinema Foundation and the Film Development Council of the Philippines at Cineteca di Bologna/L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory, in association with LVN, Cinema Artists Philippines and Mike de Leon.
There are undoubtedly a few people left who still remember that day in Cannes 1978 when rumors started circulating about a small, low budget film from the Philippines. A ‘dirty’ film, as some claimed, once more proving Lu Xun correct when he observed that while some art might originate in the sewer, it can be so full of passion that it goes as deep as tragedy.
And perhaps even further, because Lino was one of the most physical filmmakers that cinema has ever had. A true fireball, he moved insatiably from one set to rehearsals of Larawan in Fort Santiago where he directed a very dedicated group of actors, then on to a TV set where he would shoot a TV show in addition to a film as good as A Streetcar Named Desire.
He possessed a remarkable vitality that was expressed fully in the large demonstrations he organized against Marcos’ regime. With the money he made with his commercial films he bought some sophisticated sound equipment that allowed him to cover the entire Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, Manila’s massive north to south transportation corridor. Lino knew all the arteries of this swarming city, and he penetrated them just as he penetrated the veins of the outcasts in his films. Sometimes a vein would crack open and bleed. And that blood oozed on the screen with Insiang, Jaguar, Bona, Bayanko, all of which were shown in Cannes. And then, just like that, he died, in a stupid, easily avoidable car accident.
I remember a dinner, five weeks after Marcos’ fall, when Lino had realized that the Aquino regime would lead nowhere. He was no longer the same, nor were his films. He even lost his ability to joyfully seize the moment, which he was able to spread around among his friends.
Still, when you watch Manila, you’ll be burned by a flame that never goes out.
-Pierre Rissient, May 2013
A film director can survive in a museum, on a field or in the jungle – first, second or third world. In the third-world jungle he will be judged by his ability to survive, by the way he insists on making committed films and on believing in the power of cinema, even if no one ever asked him to do so. The rest stands on its own two feet. The aesthetics is a consequence.
A third-world filmmaker necessarily has to reinvent his own brand new cinema, squeezed by the rule of immediate profit (tougher in cinema than anywhere else), and the risk of a brutal clash with power. These are the directors who affect us deeply. Satyajit Ray in the 50’s, Ousmane Sembène in the 60’s, Lino Brocka at the end of the 60’s, and again Lino Brocka at the end of the ‘70s and today. [...]
Ultra-fast, fiercely vital, unclassifiable, this little man exists right in the heart of his country. He knows and experiences all the contradictions of Filipino culture and cinema. Brocka is not a solitary hero, he is a public figure; though marginal, exposed, and slandered, he is protected by his fame abroad. He has some key traits in common with Pasolini: a respect for “lower” culture, a feeling for the beauty of the body, a willingness to dissect the social links that the bodies represent.
Brocka loves flinging his characters into the traps of mise en scène, he never turns away when they are overwhelmed by emotion, and once they are cornered, neither can we.
-Serge Daney, 1981
NOTES ON THE RESTORATION
The restoration of Maynila: sa mga kuko ng liwanag was made possible through the use of the original camera and sound negatives deposited by Pierre Rissient, on behalf of Lino Brocka, at the BFI National Archive in the early 1980s. The state of conservation of the negatives was critical.
The negative was wet-scanned at 4K resolution. The digital restoration process required considerable effort due to the great number of issues affecting the negative: tears, scratches, warping, visible marks and halos.
Color decay was also a significant problem. The film’s cinematographer, Mike De Leon, attentively guided the grading phase and validated a positive print for reference.