The Kingmaker (4 stars)

The Kingmaker

Chilling documentary from Lauren Greenfield focusing on footwear obsessive and former first lady Imelda Marcos

Imelda Marcos's fondness for footwear became a byword for an extravagant stint as first lady during her husband's brutal dictatorship in the Philippines. Now 90, she still has a taste for the finer things in life and a vast fortune of dubious origin with which to purchase them.

Initially, this documentary from Lauren Greenfield (Generation Wealth, The Queen of Versailles) seems intent on treating Marcos with kid gloves. Her side of the story is recorded with respect as she recalls a journey from beauty pageant winner to president's wife and self-proclaimed mother of the nation. Archive footage shows her hobnobbing with everyone from Castro to Mao. There is a turn on the dancefloor with Henry Kissinger, a sing-song round the piano with Richard Nixon (a 'misunderstood' man apparently), a night on the town with Andy Warhol. Her desire to own a large portfolio of expensive properties is said to be evidence of her 'Edifice Complex'.

When Marcos is confronted with pesky questions about her husband's rule or the source of her multi-billion-dollar wealth she is coyly evasive and conveniently forgetful. Then cold hard reality arrives like a slap in the face. Greenfield presents us with the testimony of those who survived Ferdinand Marcos's dictatorship and imposition of martial law. We learn of torture, corruption, the assassination of political opponents and all the horrors of a past that Imelda is now seeking to wipe clean.

She is a pioneer of fake news and grand delusions, astutely declaring that 'perception is real and truth is not'. Her desire to create a political dynasty and see son Bongbong Marcos 'elected' president is shocking. The support in the Philippines for the family is unfathomable. A woman who initially seemed like a China doll with a Kardashian lifestyle is ultimately as cuddly as Don Corleone. Chilling stuff.

Selected release from Fri 13 Dec.

The Kingmaker

  • 4 stars
  • 2019
  • US / Denmark
  • 1h 41min
  • Directed by: Lauren Greenfield

Documentary about Imelda Marcos, which initially appears to treat her with kid gloves until survivors of the Marcos dictatorship talk about the level of torture, corruption and violence. Marcos herself is a pioneer of fake news and grand delusions; the continuing support for her in the Philippines is unfathomable.

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