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Cultural Center of the Philippines



1980 / Color / Drama / 105 minutes / Direction: Marilou Diaz-AbayaΒ /Β Story and Screenplay: Ricardo LeeΒ /Β Cinematography and Editing: Manolo AbayaΒ / Production Design: Don EscuderoΒ /Β Sound: Amang Sanchez / Music: George CansecoΒ /Β Produced by Bancom Audiovision Corporation / Cast: Amy Austria (Monica Real), Gina Alajar (Cynthia), Charo Santos (Clara Valdez), Jay llagan (Tato), Johnny Delgado (Jake), Perla Bautista (Charing), Joonee Gamboa, Nello Nayo, Robert Tongko, and Boy Sabiniano

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Amy Austria and Jay Ilagan in Brutal, 1980 (Cesar Hernando Collection)

The news media sensationalize a grisly murder case: Monica Real is accused of killing her husband and two other men in her apartment in Manila. In jail, Monica completely withdraws from the world and refuses to talk even to her lawyer.

Undaunted, Clara Valdez, an aggressive journalist, is determined to find out what really happened. A feminist, Clara refuses to accept Monica’s guilt without hearing her side first. When Monica does not cooperate, Clara seeks out others who may be able to shed light on her past.

Aling Charing, Monica’s mother, tells Clara that she brought up her daughter in the conventional way, preparing her for marriage and the role of wife and mother in the home. Monica was a sweet child and never gave her mother any trouble.

The family of Tato, Monica’s husband, is defensive. But Clara finds out that Tato was spoiled, aggressive, and prone to fits of violence. Both he and Monica were forced into marriage when Monica became pregnant after Tato raped her.

Cynthia is Monica’s promiscuous best friend. Monica was unaware that Cynthia secretly resented her for being everything that she, Cynthia, was not. It was Cynthia who incited Tato to rape Monica, telling him that Monica secretly loved him.

Slowly, the real reason behind the triple murder dawns on Clara. She confronts Monica. Monica snaps out of her stunned silence, breaks down, and confirms what Clara had suspected all along. Monica was the victim of male violence: Tato and his two friends, high on liquor and drugs, had taken turns raping her. When they passed out in their drunken stupor, Monica slashed their wrists and left them to bleed to death.

Brutal won the Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences award for Best Supporting Actress (Alajar), and was nominated for Gawad Urian’s Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actress (Austria), and Best Supporting Actor (Delgado). Brutal is the first Filipino movie to tackle rape as a feminist issue in the context of the Philippine patriarchal society. Β 

Written by Lena S. Pareja (1994)