Lino Brocka's 1975 film The Nail of Brightness (aka Manila in the Claws of Neon) is first and foremost a showcase for the social ills of the Philippines, particularly in the urban center of Manila. The film's main character Julio is only recently arrived to the city having left behind his impoverished but relatively dignified and happy life as a fisherman in a small village to find his girlfriend Ligaya who had herself gone to the city at the promise of a job and some educational opportunities only to disappear completely a short time later. Julio's episodic experiences in the city give Brocka a chance to exhibit all sorts of social issues as Julio is robbed of his savings before the film even begins and is forced to seek employment at an unsafe construction site where he agrees to work for a low wage and fails to even receive the meager pay he bargained for; the construction company can get away with this because of a lazy, inefficient government that apparently does nothing for its working class people. As the film continues Julio's misery grows greater; more than one character is forced to turn to prostitution to make ends meet and several major characters are the victims of violent crime.
In spite of the didactic nature of the material, Brocka's film is a success because he builds sympathy for Julio through the use of subjective camera techniques. The narrative is peppered with brief, precisely edited flashback shots from Julio's point of view: the result is an unusually powerful evocation of memory. Brocka's subjective cinema transcends the established techniques of social realism and allows him create one of the greatest doomed characters in film history.
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