As a sample of Third World cinema, Manila by Night (and by association its director, Ishmael Bernal) endured a reputation for technical inadequacy—an ironic assessment, considering its top-rank status in the Philippine film canon. This paper will attempt to revaluate the movie’s aesthetic stature vis-à-vis movements specific to Third Cinema, focusing on ethnographic filmmaking. First will be an analysis of the film’s visual surface, with a consideration of scene selections/limitations/restrictions, the limiting and liberating aspect of night shooting, and the independent-minded spirit which refused to conform to standards of surface polish in filmmaking, as dictated by critics and practitioners. Second will be a consideration of sound, particularly its director’s successful adaptation of the multi-channel recording system to convey overlapping and even simultaneous lines of dialogue. By this means the paper hopes to argue that, contrary to received impressions, Bernal devoted as much aesthetic deliberation to Manila by Night as he did to its justly celebrated narratological and ideological elements.


ethnographic films, film censorship, film documentation, multicharacter narrative

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Kritika Kultura
Department of English
School of Humanities
Ateneo de Manila University

The Philippine Commission on Higher Education (CHED) declares Kritika Kultura as a CHED-recognized journal under the Journal Challenge Category of its Journal Incentive Program.

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Jan Baetens
Faculty of Arts
Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven (Belgium)

Joel David
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Inha University (South Korea)

Michael Denning
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Department of English
Yale University (US)

Faculty of Cultural Sciences
Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia)

Regenia Gagnier
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University of Exeter (UK)

Leela Gandhi
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Brown University (US)

Inderpal Grewal
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Yale University (US)

Peter Horn
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University of Cape Town (South Africa)
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University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

Anette Horn
Professor of German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

David Lloyd
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University of California, Riverside (US)

Bienvenido Lumbera
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University of the Philippines

Rajeev S. Patke
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Yale NUS College (Singapore)

Vicente L. Rafael
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University of Washington (US)

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University of California, Davis (US)

Temario Rivera
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Department of Political Science
University of the Philippines

E. San Juan, Jr.
Philippines Studies Center (US)

Neferti X.M. Tadiar
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Barnard College (US)
Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
Columbia University (US)

Antony Tatlow
Honorary Professor of Drama
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)