Lauren Greenfield earned critical acclaim and guild nominations for her documentaries “The Queen of Versailles” and “Generation Wealth,” both of which examine the excesses of Western society. But the director of the new Showtime film “The Kingmaker” readily admits, she was not prepared for all that she would find when she went looking for her next subject in Philippines.
Originally, Greenfield was focused on telling the improbable story of an African safari park that had been built on an island in the Philippines in the mid 1970s under the order of then President Ferdinand Marcos. She interviewed his widow, Imelda Marcos, who was eager to talk about being First Lady for 21 years until forced into exile in 1986. She returned five years later and has spent the past quarter century trying to rehabilitate her image as a spendthrift and secure her son’s future as the country’s next president.
Greenfield candidly characterizes Marcos as an “unreliable narrator.” Her absolute belief in alternative facts caused the filmmaker to shift her focus. “To counteract the bad PR, Imelda rewrites her own history. I had given her the benefit of the doubt; she is a woman in her later years looking at the past through rose-colored glasses. Then I realized it was a strategic move to erase the past and get back into power.”
After carefully the rise and fall of the Marcoses, she turns her attention to the devastating effects of their reign. And she sounds a cautionary note about the potential for the family to rule once more. “First there is the surprise that it is happening and then the realization that it is working.” Marcos sits in the lower house of the national government while her son and daughter have been senators.
The mother clearly has ambitions for her son and has struck an alliance with the country’s current president, Rodrigo Duterte, and hopes that her son, Bongbong, succeeds him. As Greenfield recounts, she did not even include him in the presentation reel. “He is an accidental politician. He is not world class like his mother, who is charismatic, or his father, who is brilliant. He is a legacy, who gets pushed by his mother, the Kingmaker.”
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