Re-viewing history: Notes on ‘The Kingmaker,’ a documentary on Imelda Marcos

CCP Vice President Chris B. Millado during the open forum after The Kingmaker matinee screening at the CCP, Jan. 29, 2020


The simultaneous screenings of “The Kingmaker,” a documentary by Lauren Greenfield on Imelda R. Marcos, at the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the University of the Philippines in Diliman could not have come at a more appropriate time.

The Jan. 29, 2020 screenings of the critically acclaimed documentary came 27 days before the 34th anniversary of Feb. 25, 1986 uprising which jettisoned the Marcoses to Hawaii (but they are back in the Philippines’ halls of wheeling-dealing); 14 days after Imelda was guest of honor in a CCP dinner to toast her founding of the center 50 years ago; and the most important, the recent aggressive drive of the Marcoses to tamper with historical accounts of the monstrous and profligate (formal and nominal) martial rule years between 1972 to 1986, despite testimonies by still-living victims and legal evidence accepted in courts.

To many Filipinos who grew up during the Ferdinand Marcos presidency (1965 – 1986), the narrative of The Kingmaker maybe familiar. But familiarity with the true Marcos narrative and “other myths” which Imelda, her children, and supporters attempt to eternally enhance into their own liking does not diminish why this important re-viewing of history is a must-watch.

For those who are not fully informed about the dark days of the Marcos machinations, the documentary by the Emmy award-winning filmmaker-photographer Greenfield is a sound starting point. The documentary is a firm jumping board to critically explore why the Marcoses are surreptitiously desirous of revising their participation in devastating and plundering the Philippines.

The Kingmaker, for sure, does not cover everything about the Marcoses and their political rise, fall, return, and seeming rehabilitation. It, however, arouses the viewers to ask thought-provoking questions such as “why are they back in power” or “where did they stash their immense wealth” estimated to be from US$5 billion to US$ 10 billion. Government agents have spent decades searching for the Marcos ill-gotten wealth here and abroad, but only a miniscule amount have been recovered.

In one scene, Andres Bautista, former chair of the Presidential Commission on Good Governance which hunts the Marcos hidden wealth, was so surprised that Imelda had told Greenfield they have “170 bank accounts.” Bautista went to the US after being unseated as chief of the Commission on Election following President Rodrigo Duterte’s assumption of presidential powers.

Anointed by the US-based Critics Choice as the “most compelling living subject of a documentary,” The Kingmaker, in a nutshell, traces the metamorphosis of an orphaned Imelda Romualdez, her becoming a beauty title-holder, her meeting and marriage to Ferdinand E. Marcos, their ascent to Malacanang Presidential Palace, the harrowing martial rule years, her globe-trotting and wanton spending (buying real estates in Manhattan and diamonds and animals from Kenya bound for Calauit Island), the Marcoses’ exile in the US, their return to the Philippines to reclaim political power, and their striking of political deals and alliances to have Bongbong Marcos elected as vice president of the country.

In presenting Imelda’s versions of truths, lies, and myths (one scene showed a painting featuring Ferdinand as “Malakas” and Imelda as “Maganda” of the Philippine creation legend), Greenfield framed an Imelda, who is made-up and dressed up in brightly colored attires inside her opulently decorated living quarters surrounded by ever-watchful attendants or inside a van while clutching thick wads of peso bills for dole-outs.

To counter Imelda’s statements, victims of human rights violations under the Marcos autocratic rule namely, former Congresswoman and educator Etta Rosales, human rights advocate May Rodriguez, and journalist Pete Lacaba, were shown in dark hues of light, with gloomy shades brown and gray.

The contrast felt like Imelda narrating fish tales in a Disneyland setting, while Rosales, Rodrigues, and Lacaba were recounting details of death and destruction.

The rapid alternating scenes showing, among others, Imelda asking how was her facial make-up and if her abdomen was not too prominent contrasted with the “truth-tellers” who were recorded in bland surroundings, with almost no facial powder, and simple attire painted to the viewers the varied stripes of truths and untruths in the lives of the Marcoses. The “inter-cutting” of Imelda against the others was like the battle between telling the truth and spinning lies.

In The Kingmaker, Greenfield cogently connected the Marcos wealth to their political power, resuscitation, and comeback. She is calling on truth-seeking and freedom-loving Filipino to study Imelda, her children, the Marcos clan, and the contemporary allies of the Marcos clan.

In the difficult process of understanding what really happened why the Marcoses are back in power, Greenfield is also sounding a warning to the Filipino people: that there are many Imeldas in the present Philippine political landscape.

As Chris B. Millado, CCP vice president and artistic director, remarked at the CCP premiere of The Kingmaker, the people’s uprising which “effectively ousted the oppressive Marcos regime” was “tragically ineffective in uprooting the conditions and system that allow the return of tyrants.”

“Beyond the controversial dinner that happened at the main lobby a floor just above us, several events pertaining to the return of the Marcoses remind us about the vulnerability of cultural memory, and the fragility of the democratic legacy of People Power,” Millado said.

Declaring “we should never forget,” Millado said the film should inspire cultural workers to “harness the potency of art to combat this spreadable virus — the virus of idiocy and indifference.”

CCP Image

#CCP #TheKingmaker #ImeldaMarcos #LaurenGreenfield

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s