City After Dark

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City After Dark
City After Dark (film).jpg
Directed by Ishmael Bernal
Written by Ishmael Bernal
Starring Gina Alajar
Charmie Benavidez
Bernardo Bernardo
Cherie Gil
Anton Juan
Music by The Vanishing Tribe
Cinematography Sergio Lobo
Editing by Augusto Salvador
Distributed by Regal Films
Release date(s) 1980
Running time 150 mins.
Country Flag of the Philippines Philippines
Language Tagalog
IMDb profile

City After Dark, originally titled Manila by Night, is a 1980 drama film directed by Ishmael Bernal. Released at the height of the Marcos regime, the film uncovers the other face of Manila by depicting the ugly aspects of life in the city - unemployment, prostitution, drug addiction, and lack of decent housing. Considered as one of Bernal's masterpieces, it is an epic multi-narrative of people who have shady pasts and are trying to exist in an unforgiving world.



The film's events take place in the course of one night, involving various protagonists and the city itself. William Martinez plays a folk singer from a rich family who becomes addicted to heroin through the influence of lesbian pusher and pimp, Cherie Gil. Martinez's mother in the movie, played by Charito Solis, is herself a reformed prostitute who, like Lady Macbeth, is obsessed with cleaning her hands to remove the dirt of her past. She does her best to be respectable after marrying an ex-cop played by Johnny Wilson.

Meanwhile, Cherie Gil's character is in love with a blind masseuse, played by Rio Locsin, with two illegitimate children. Locsin lives with Jojo Santiago, whose character fantasizes of earning American dollars while working in Saudi Arabia. Another character, portrayed by Alma Moreno, is a nurse who, in reality, is a call girl. Her live-in taxi-driver lover, played by Orestes Ojeda, is fooling around with a waitress played by Lorna Tolentino, who is the presumed girlfriend of a gay couterier played by Bernardo Bernardo.

As dawn breaks over the city, the bizarre lives of the characters of Manila's nightlife seem like an alter-ego of the respectable, busy daytime world.


Although the movie was originally titled Manila by Night, Imelda Marcos presumably asked the filmmaker to change the title so as not to specifically malign "her city." The film, too, could have earned for Bernal the same international accolades as Lino Brocka. However, the film did not make it to the 1981 Berlin International Film Festival. When it was finally released, the film was heavily censored, since the government felt that it showed negative images of the country and Marcos's "New Society". Local censors in Manila deleted foul words from the soundtrack and all negative references to Manila were taken out. Therefore, though the original film was two hours and twenty minutes long, the released edited version was only ninety minutes.

However, at the time of its release, many Filipinos felt that this was the best film ever produced.





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