Movie Review: 'The King Maker'

John Thomas

She is still very much alive and scheming. Imelda Marcos may be in her early 90s but remains alert enough to fuss over her hair, worry that her “tummy” looks too big for the camera and feel love and compassion for her Philippine people. She is also sharp enough to want to perpetuate the Marcos rule begun decades ago by her late husband Ferdinand Marcos.

Throughout this film, she professes love for “her people” and, more importantly, the desire to have another Marcos in power – this time her son, Bongbong.

 Stories swirl around this famous Philippine ruling family. Ferdinand is a rising star in government when he met Imelda, a rising star in the world of beauty. This striking couple lead the Philippine country for years, until their greed for power and money caught up with them. U.S. President Reagan suggested they flee to Hawaii for asylum. It is very unlikely that Reagan suggested they take the $5 to $10 billion in money they allegedly stole from their country with them. He left Hawaii in death, she finally returned to Manila very much alive and likely still a billionaire.

Even in her ripe old age, she has visions of the Marcos reign continuing. We see her traveling around the city distributing money to children (buying future votes?), visiting some of her humanitarian projects (ensuring more votes?) and being interviewed in her palatial home (letting voters know she is alive and well?).

In a very grand parlor she is seated on a guided sofa in front of highly valued paintings in guided frames. After questioning her wealth of stolen billions she is later photographed in the same parlor, on the same sofa but now in front of bland family photographs in dull frames. Where did all that gold go?

Ferdinand and Imelda’s excess is questioned. The subject of her 3,000 pair shoe collection is mentioned – she makes light of it saying she has a weakness for nice things. The subject of islanders displaced so she could import wild animals for a zoo/park on their land is lightly dismissed. These natives weren’t and are still not happy about being moved or forced to live with wild animals. Even as her car pauses at a red traffic light, she hands out money from the car window to her admiring child-fans.

Is she really that popular in the Philippines as she is depicted in the film, however? Her son Bongbong lost his bid for the vice presidency. The family is quite naturally contesting the ballot counting in the courts.

Do the children really love her, or even know who she is if she’s not giving money to them? The Kingmaker reveals the mystique of this once powerful first lady, yet it is only her side of the story.

Directed by Lauren Greenfield (Credits: Generation Wealth, The Queen of Versailles), “The Kingmaker” is a “see” film that runs 101 minutes.


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