Manila by Night


Manila by Night 
(a.k.a.City After Dark)

The Philippines, 1980, 150’, Filipino
Directed by: Ishmael Bernal
Screenplay: Ishmael Bernal, Ricky Lee
Photography (color): Sergio Lobo
Editing: Augusto Salvador
Production Design: Peque Gallaga
Music: Vanishing Tribe
Executive Producer: Lily Monteverde
Cast: Charito Solis (Virgie), Alma Moreno (Ade), Cherie Gil (Kano) Rio Locsin (Bea), Lorna Tolentino (Baby), Gina Alajar (Vanessa), Orestes Ojeda (Pebrero), Bernardo Bernardo (Manay Sharon), William Martinez (Alex)

Date of First Release in Territory: November 28th, 1980


Undoubtedly one of Bernal’s most celebrated films, Manila by Night (a.k.a. City After Dark)  is a trip through the “low life” of several interconnected people who really exist at night, in the interlope world of Malate/Manila in the late 1970s. Summarising the story and characters of this highly choral film is not an easy task, but let’s try.
Bea (Rio Locsin) is working in a blind massage parlour, and her close friend Kano (Cherie Gil) is a hardcore lesbian, who is also into drugs. They are joined by Baby (Lorna Tolentino) a girl from the province who falls in love with Pebrero (Orestes Ojeda) a good for nothing taxi driver, father of two children, who makes Baby pregnant. Meanwhile, Ade (Alma Moreno), Pebrero’s regular living partner, works a as prostitute to support him. But he also has a lover, the gay Manay (Bernardo Bernardo)… while Manay is in love with Alex (William Martinez), a drug addict and a night club singer. Alex’s mother, Virgie (Charito Solis) is quite worried about her son, and looks for him in the gay bars. Because he deeply loves Alex, Manay returns him to his mother, while Alex is deeply into a world of drugs and homosexuality. Meanwhile Baby’s pregnancy become obvious, she has to quit her job as a waitress, and also turns into prostitution. Eventually, the police arrest Kano for drug trafficking, and Ade is dying during the New Year’s celebration… 
So, it’s easy to understand why this global immersion into “Manila Vice” could be a shock to the censors , and especially to former First Lady Imelda Marcos, who was horrified that a film could give such a bad image of her beloved city. The film was heavily cut in several scenes by the board of censors, and the title was changed to City After Dark (without Manila being mentioned). The film was also banned for export.
However, as usual, the film became a kind of “cult movie” in the following years, and critics praised its humanity and stark realism. It won several Gawad Urian awards (the Filipino version of the Oscars) From a “film maudit,” it became a reference movie, and Bernal made more films grasping with highly sensitive topics in the Catholic Philippines, like Miracle (Himala, with Nora Aunor).  
Recently, Manila by Night was restored in 4K by the Philippine Film archive (a branch of the FDCP). This is the premiere abroad. Finally, we can see Bernal’s film in all its human dimension, where darkness fights light…

Ishmael Bernal

After his first film At the Top (1971), Ishmael Bernal (b. 1938) directed different types of films, from historical dramas like The Viper (El Vibora, 1972) to comedies like Half-breed, 1977, and to modern dramas, like Wild Flowers (1976), You Are Mine (1978), Pleasure (1979), the famous City After Dark (Manila by Night, 1980), Himala (1982). He kept making films until Wating (1994), but died suddenly of a heart attack in June 1996. His work was always a bit shadowed abroad by that of his friends Lino Brocka or Mike de Leon, but remains one of the major works of the great Filipino cinema of that period.

1971 – At the Top
1972 – The Viper
1976 – Wild Flowers
1977 – Half-breed
1978 – You Are Mine
1979 – Pleasure
1980 – City After Dark
1982 – The Affair
1982 – Miracle
1984 – Working Girls 1
1987 – Working Girls 2
1994 – Wating

Max Tessier
Film director: Ishmael BERNAL
Year: 1980
Running time: 152'
Country: The Philippines
25/04 - 8:30 AM
Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine
25-04-2022 8:30 25-04-2022 11:02Europe/Rome Manila by Night Far East Film Festival Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da UdineCEC Udine
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