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Manila in the Claws of Light

Lino Brocka

Lino Brocka broke through to international acclaim with this candid portrait of 1970s Manila, the second film in the director’s turn to more serious-minded filmmaking after building a career on mainstream films he described as “soaps.” A young fisherman from a provincial village arrives in the capital on a quest to track down his girlfriend, who was lured there with the promise of work and hasn’t been heard from since. In the meantime, he takes a low-wage job at a construction site and witnesses life on the streets, where death strikes without warning, corruption and exploitation are commonplace, and protests hint at escalating civil unrest. Mixing visceral, documentary-like realism with the narrative focus of Hollywood noir and melodrama, Manila in the Claws of Light is a howl of anguish from one of the most celebrated figures in Philippine cinema.

“A film reviewed recently: the ability to observe the world with(in) cinema capabilities; the ability to interfere with an exemplary story of survival, with the plasticity of an open and close view; the structure in one frame, each frame, multiple layers of observation without decreasing the realist register; the introduction of a personal look (zooming) in world’s History with his own language. Remarkable.” – Jose Neves, Mubi

“The brilliance of Manila in the Claws of Light lies partly in its multiple tensions. First, gritty realism occurs alongside poised stylization. De Leon’s artful cinematography unfolds in jarring contrast to the city’s ugliest sights. His panoramic shots and deep-space compositions emphasize the breadth, congestion, and horrid majesty of sprawling shantytowns.” Jose Capino, Criterion

“The movie’s palpable, deeply lived-in realism is among its great attractions, largely because the film isn’t just a story about a young Filipino Everyman, but because it’s also a de facto record of Manila in the 1970s.” – Manohla Dargis, New York Times

“With action ranging from Julio’s recruitment by a male prostitute to the murder of a co-worker whose family lost their land to corrupt officials, Brocka fulfills the aesthetic promise of the title: the sharp-edged, rough-toned images reveal torments and abominations with exhilarating, combative energy.” – Richard Brody, New Yorker


  • 1/26 | 6:00PM
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