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Film Editorial

kingmaker19.jpg The Kingmaker
 

Director: Lauren Greenwood

Documentarian Greenwood has already profiled the lifestyles of the rich and careless in films such as ‘The Queen of Versailles’ and ‘Generation Wealth’. She’s hunting even bigger game here with this horribly compelling profile of Imelda Marcos, the famously ostentatious widowed wife of the former Philippines dictator and kleptocrat Juan Marcos. It begins fairly innocuously as we are shown around the sprightly nonagenarian’s vulgar apartment as she moans about being sent shoe-related knickknacks, then out on the streets as she hands out fistfuls of cash to poor children. The picture flashes back to show Imelda as an ex-Miss Manila beauty queen married to the then young army sergeant Ferdinand Marcos following a two-week courtship. When her husband became president in 1965 she proclaimed herself the mother of the nation while globe-trotting and schmoozing with politicians, leaders and celebrities as diverse as the Queen, Richard Nixon and Andy Warhol, through to Chairman Mao and Saddam Hussein. The grimly humorous middle section illustrates how her every whim was indulged (including setting up an island safari park and booting the residents off to do so) as the couple funnelled an estimated ten billion of the country’s wealth into their own pockets. The picture takes a very dark turn when chronicling how the regime dealt with dissidents and opponents with harrowing accounts from the victims – a little more of the political background would have been welcome. Marcos comes across as a grotesque, self-pitying, entitled and ruthless, like a particularly malevolent Barbara Cartland, all pink dresses, florid language and talk about the sacrifices she has made for her people. In a depressing footnote the latter part of the film deals with how the dynasty, despite former disgraces, are making a comeback, with Marcos on the campaign trail working to secure the vice-presidency for her son ‘Bongbong’, a prospect welcomed by the current president, the Trump-like ‘man of the people’ Rodrigo Duterte.