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The Face of Urban Poverty in the Cinema of Brocka

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To cinematically represent a social reality as complex as poverty is no easy task. Mediated by Brocka’s own temperament, background, experiences, worldview, response to specific sociopolitical circumstances, and exposure to or association with certain institutions, personalities, and artistic works, some aspects of it are inevitably excluded in the representation. His depiction of the urban poor in Maynila: Sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag, Insiang, Jaguar, Bona, and Bayan Ko: Kapit sa Patalim, which is part of a larger discourse and competes with other discourses, has provoked varied and even contradictory reactions. Undoubtedly, his discourse on poverty has both strengths and weaknesses.

On one hand, he has been praised for drawing upon real-life situations, for being sensitive to historical contexts, for using cinema as a vehicle for social commentary, and for emboldening other filmmakers to carry out the risky undertaking of offering political critiques. On the other hand, he has been accused of failing to be truly revolutionary and progressive because larger social issues are obscured by his melodramatic strategy of focusing on the personal and individual struggles of deeply flawed characters that fail to bring about positive change through political action. However, if larger social issues are eclipsed or obscured, how could his films be a critique of society, be a vehicle for social commentary, or raise the social consciousness of viewers?

The key to understanding this paradox is a closer and more exhaustive investigation of the extratextual factors that shaped his representation. By unlocking the hows and whys of his representation, this paradox will be better understood.
—from the Introduction

Category: Social Science; Criticism & Interpretation