ONE OF the greatest films in Philippine history has been digitally restored—wonderful news for those generations who may not have seen the movie in full splendor. Maynila: Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag (Manila in the Claws of Light) by the legendary Lino Brocka (1939-1991) tells the tragic drama of Julio (played by Rafael "Bembol" Roco in his film debut), a fisherman who travels to Manila in search of his girlfriend Ligaya (Hilda Koronel). The city's cruel and alien ways disenchants him; eventually it eats him up and leaves him hopeless. Shot during the repressive martial law period of President Ferdinand Marcos' rule, the film carries hard-hitting metaphors for political corruption and decay.
The restoration comes at a time when Filipino independent film makers have emerged and have been making waves in international festivals. The Film Development Council of the Philippines, which created the National Film Archive of the Philippines in 2011, has driven the restoration efforts in cooperation with Martin Scorcese's World Cinema Foundation. The remastered film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last May, and debuted at the University of the Philippines last night.
I hope this leads the way to a more robust and systematic process for preserving Philippine motion pictures. There have been at least 8,000 or so films since Philippine cinema began in 1919, but only 3,000 of these are considered archival and accessible. Cinema preservation is essential in protecting and celebrating the best of our cultural heritage.
Watch a clip from YouTube: