Julio, an innocent provincial youth, travels to Manila in search of his childhood sweetheart Ligaya, who was lured from her village home with promises of a better life and sold into prostitution.  Immediately robbed of what little cash he has, Julio scrabbles to survive, drifting through temporary jobs and navigating the threatening, soulless city in search of his beloved.

One of the pinnacles of Filipino cinema, Lino Brocka’s starkly naturalistic and at the same time eerily dreamlike mixture of melodrama, neorelism and film noir, is a shattering portrait of innocence lost in the grip of a corrupt, exploitative and indifferent urban jungle. A masterpiece of world cinema.

“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

“I added the word ‘Maynila’ to the title. I wanted to show a panorama of the city – how a country boy is corrupted there. ‘Liwanag’ here reflects to the neon signs which attract the provincials like moths to the flame. This film was difficult to make in the context of the government campaign to turn Manila into a ‘City of Lights’. A critic wrote a positive review of the film. He compared Maynila to the ‘Ibong Adarna’ (‘The Enchanted Bird’), a popular folktale of a singing bird that enchants its listeners to sleep and then shits on them, turning them into stone. The provincial is seduced by the city, and the city shits on him.”
– Lino Brocka, Positif, 1982



Philippines, 1975, DCP, 1.85, colour/b&w, 124′, English subtitles

directed by Lino Brocka
written by Clodualdo del Mundo, Jr. (based on the novel Sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag / In the Claws of Brightness by Edgardo M. Reyes)
cinematography Miguel de Leon
editing Edgardo Jarlego, Ike Jarlego
music Max Jocson
cast Bembel Roco, Hilda Koronel, Rafael Roco Jr., Lou Salbador Jr., Tommy Abuel, Jojo Abella, Juling Badabaldo
produced by Miguel de Leon, Severino Manotok

Introduction and Q&A: Fabrice du Welz!


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. Restoration funding provided by Doha Film Institute.