National Artist Lino Brocka explained familiar details surrounding the tragedy of the Manila Film Center. The building’s construction was rushed because of the Manila International Film Festival, which ultimately resulted in the deaths of up to 169 workers. This was made even more horrifying by Imelda Marcos’ order to carry on with construction despite workers buried in cement on November 17, 1981.
At the 1:30 mark of the clip, workers buried in the debris, a foot sticking out, and dead bodies in what appeared to be a massive waterfall of wood and scaffolding can be seen. These images may not be well known to many Filipinos today because, as Brocka said, there would be a news blackout soon after the incident.
Brocka’s decision to stand with his principles sometimes cost him. He found himself in constant dire financial straits despite being critically acclaimed, winning FAMAS awards and even being the first Filipino filmmaker to be invited to Cannes. At one point, the Marcos dictatorship offered to pay him to make films they approved of; Brocka didn’t hesitate to say no.
Lino Brocka understood that the mission of the artist was “to take part in the formation of a society where freedom and justice reign, a society where the rights of every human being are respected.” To put it simply, he was an artist for the people.