By Jim Bea Sampaga
The documentary film The Kingmaker featuring Imelda Marcos had its theatrical release in New York and Los Angeles last Friday, November 8, and will be available on streaming service SHOWTIME in early 2020. Directed by Emmy Award-winning director Lauren Greenfield, The Kingmaker focuses on the political career of the former first lady and the Marcos family’s efforts to help son Bongbong Marcos, win the vice-presidency.
The documentary film initially debuted at the Venice Film Festival in August then traveled around to different film festival premieres such as the Telluride Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, and Camden International Film Festival. The Kingmaker was nominated as best documentary at the London Film Festival and the Stockholm Film Festival and won the 2019 Critic’s Choice Award for Most Compelling Living Subject of a Documentary. According to multiple reviews, the film is a “hidden gem” (The Hollywood Reporter) and “jaw-dropping” (Variety).
Hawaii had a big role in this part of Filipino history. While the 1986 People Power Revolution was taking place in Manila, Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda with their three children were forced to flee to Hawaii and live in exile. Three years later, former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos died in Honolulu. Allowed by President Corazon Aquino, Imelda and her children returned to the Philippines in 1991 after being in exile for more than five years.
For Leeward Community College Philippine studies coordinator Dr. Raymund Liongson, The Kingmaker gave the Marcos family a platform to promote their agenda.
“Particularly in Hawaii where a great majority of Filipinos are Ilocanos who remain loyal to their kailian,” Dr. Liongson said. “This documentary would fortify the Marcoses’ claim of innocence and pain themselves as political victims even as the dictator’s son attempts to make his way to Malacanang and seize the presidential powers.”
Even though the majority of Filipinos in Hawaii are from the Ilocos region where the Marcos family is originally from, Filipino-American Historical Society of Hawaii president Clement Bautista said that the documentary “will generate mixed responses.”
“Whether one supports or condemns Ferdinand Marcos, Imelda herself has generated a separate set of reactions during and after the Marcos regime. For sure, Imelda Marcos benefited immensely from her marriage, but she also exhibited and continues to exhibit her own influence and charisma in the Philippines,” Bautista said. “In Hawaii, like in the Philippines, the meaning of Imelda Marcos and any depiction of her will generate mixed responses — from utter disgust and loathing to simple admiration for her presence and perseverance.”
With the Filipinos currently going under a “deja vu” with current president Rodrigo Duterte, Dr. Liongson said. “deposed regimes are making a come back.”
“It is important that we stay vigilant and remain courageous and critical,” he said.
Documentaries about the Philippines are always welcome but Bautista warned that the public should keep an open mind about interpreting the film. “We all — viewers and filmmakers alike — have our own preconceptions about Imelda and may learn something new and useful from the interaction of viewing the film,” said Bautista.