Drama Movie

The Kingmaker The Philippines is a metaphor for the collusion of political power with capital and the inbreeding of factional families, where politics is passed down from generation to generation and becomes a family business. However, the real democracy that the people hope for is still in the undefined future.

A natural political animal.Through the Cold War, martial law and exile, Imee Dae is a formidable figure in Philippine politics. Even when the Marcos regime was overthrown, she still managed to lead her family back into Philippine politics in a decade, escaping all kinds of judicial proceedings and continuing to make waves.At 91 years old, with her towering, wig-like black hair, her never-ending padded shoulders, her smooth, white, expressionless face, and the visible and invisible wealth behind her, Imedes is undoubtedly the embodiment of the power and desire that has shaped Philippine politics and history for half a century.

Even for a director who has seen a lot of the glamorous and glamorous lifestyle of The Queen of Versailles (2012) and Generation Wealth (2018), it was still a challenge to take on a subject like Imee Dae.1 Especially when, as Imee Dae’s son Bongbong Marcos (1957), the former Philippine vice presidential candidate, said that his mother was the most powerful political figure he had ever met, a natural, intuitive political creature.

She knows how to present herself to the camera, whether through words, gestures or material displays, and this is indeed what Imee Dae has been practicing since she became first lady, even if it has been internalized in her bones.

When she tells a story that she believes in Imelda knows the power of the media and believes in her own narrative, otherwise she would not have said “Perception is real, and truth is not”. What she outlines in the film is not unlike what she described in her 2003 documentary “Imelda”, which featured Ramona S. Diaz (1962-).

Imelda is still Imelda, she does not hide from the camera, even when her frames are broken, she continues to tell her story without changing her expression, leaving it to the servants to pick it up; she is eager for the camera, eager to rewrite her history through the media, because in her fairy tale narrative, the Marcos family is betrayed and persecuted, martial law is the best time for the Philippines, and the people The martial law period was the best time in the Philippines for the Marcoses, and the people were nostalgic for the Marcoses’ reign, and she longed to return to power.

When Imee Dae says this on camera, with aplomb, it is a frightening sight to watch. She and her late husband, Marcos, were among the most notorious and dramatic figures in recent Philippine history, because we know that this is far from the truth. During his period of power, he received a lot of US aid to build roads and bridges, cultural centers, theaters and other large public buildings, which indeed brought modernity to the society, but in the process also enriched himself and brought nine years of martial law (1972-1981) to the Philippine society, seriously violating human rights and consolidating his power by suppressing dissidents.

Everything in the film, including the accidents, is under her control.In the case of an experienced and politically savvy subject like Imee Dae, the director does not improvise or intervene much on set, perhaps because of the typical Hollywood style of documentary filmmaking.3 In this film, Imee Dae is usually filmed sitting in her gilded living room full of famous paintings, or filming her outings and election campaigns, observing her interactions with the public, or filming her desire to show the world what she is up to. Or filming the objects she wants to show to the public. At best, the camera picks up some of her unintentional facial expressions and mannerisms on the stage that Imelda has set up.

But most of the time, these “accidental revelations” remain within Imelda’s grasp, and even though the cameras record her saying she has 170 bank accounts in and out of the country, and photograph the Picasso and Michelangelo paintings hanging on her living room wall, which are sufficient evidence for an anti-corruption investigation, she still manages to get away with it again and again. She has managed to escape justice time and again. The story she weaves from her mouth is full of emotion and persuasive, for even the storyteller revels in the narrative, even as she repeatedly elaborates to reinforce and attempt to rewrite her perceptions and history.

She is a “one-way” narrator, with a complete and closed set of explanations for any questions she asks, and with her special status and power, there is no “dialogue” between the director and Imelda in the film, although they do talk, you ask, I answer, but that is all. Although they are bound to talk, ask and answer during the shooting, it is only a question and answer, and even a continuous talk and demonstration by Imee-dae to the camera,4 not an organic, two-way, mutually-revolving communication and dialogue, not to mention whether the director had the opportunity to challenge Imee-dae’s words during the shooting.

On all occasions where she appears in the film, it is difficult for the camera to occupy a more powerful narrative position than she does, and what is captured on film is, in principle, still in the palm of Imelda’s hand, the camera never entering the door of the room Imelda does not allow outsiders to enter.

The greatest failing of her story is the narrative, which she thinks is flawless.

However, this does not mean that the director did not struggle with it, and the battlefield to break the fairy tale of Imelda is in the editing.

The director’s narrative strategy is to repeatedly find another point of view to respond to, refute, disprove, and shatter Imelda’s incendiary fairy tale – when Imelda kisses the glass case where Marcus’ body is placed with a sorrowful look, the next scene shows “she is using Marcus’ body to revive the family When Imedi remembers her romantic love with Marcus, the next scene shows Marcus’ past of cheating; when Imedi puts wild animals from Africa into Calauit and says there are not many inhabitants on the island, the next scene shows an interview with the inhabitants who were forced to move to the island because of the animals.

When Imee Dae, who considers herself the mother of the Philippines, says that people often criticize her for going too far, but that’s motherhood, that’s the spirit of motherhood, that love cannot be quantified, the next scene shows her son Bongbong reminiscing with regret that his parents were always away from home when he was a child, always busy with campaigning or some kind of big event; when Imee Dae says that the period of martial law was the best time in the Philippines, people who were oppressed by the Marcos regime show up to accuse the government of The narrative structure of the film is essentially a cross-cutting of “Imee Dae’s point of view” and “rebuttal to Imee Dae’s point of view”.

Such a narrative technique certainly brings about a fast-paced, climactic, and continuously rolling plot, but later on in the film, a crisis arises: the narrative subject to be dealt with is too strong, so that the director wants to counteract it with a relatively hard force, and the trajectory is too clear and single. Although I can understand that this is the result of the social responsibility that documentary filmmakers expect themselves to fulfill, the complexity of the film lies in the complexity of the character of Imelda, not in the complexity of politics and history, nor in the complexity of the narrative developed by the deployment of audio and video.

The distracting 3,000 pairs of shoes, and the neglected political forces behind her.

In other words, after watching the film, we will be astonished by the Marcos family, and we will be frightened by the fact that people still feel the dictatorship and the return of the dictator. What is the mechanism by which the “kingmaker” continues to be created? What are the other forces that shape Philippine politics beyond the Marcos family? We have not had the chance to realize it.

It’s like what Andy Bautista, former chairman of the Philippine Presidential Commission on Good Governance (PCGG), said in a post-screening panel, “Everyone pays attention to the 3,000 pairs of shoes that Imee Dae has, but often overlooks the fact that she has more paintings, jewelry, properties, etc. Three thousand pairs of shoes are a distraction.” 6 The narrative structure of the film, which focuses on Imee Dae and then tries to connect to the current political situation, becomes a sort of distracting “3,000 shoes” that simplifies the political and social situation in the Philippines.

But there’s nothing wrong with that. After all, this American documentary is aimed at a global market, and it’s not easy to draw the character of Imelda within the usual space, without assuming that the audience has seen 2003’s Imelda and is familiar with her one-size-fits-all narrative, and to present the complex historical and political context at the same time.

Seeing the Philippines beyond the screen, beyond the fairy tale.

In the second half of the film, the director focuses on how the Marcos family returns to politics through an alliance of money and power. The Marcos family finances the candidacy of Rodrigo Duterte (1945-), who is buried as a national hero, and the two forces form an even more unshakable force.

This part of the film highlights the director’s anxiety about the current social situation, and this anxiety is the driving force behind the completion of her documentary at this time. The phenomenon at hand is not only happening in the Philippines, but also in the United States and elsewhere – when money can buy everything, even the manipulation of elections, it fully reveals that the democracy we are so proud of is actually quite fragile.

However, we cannot ignore the fact that the political arena is like a wild ecosystem of intertwined forces, but also a product of the intertwined symbiosis between the pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial processes in the Philippines, where the “political dynasty” dominates the political ecology from the local to the central level, including the elite who are transported from the local level to the central level in Manila. The Marcos family and the Duterte family are not the only ones who have struggled with the political dynasty that has dominated the political ecology of the Philippines from the local level to the central level, including the elite oligarchs and warlord factions that have been transported from the local level to the central level of Manila. The Marcos dictatorship lost the hearts and minds of the people and the exile, concentrated power in the hands of one family, and caused the military to expand its political power, which is to blame for its authoritarian rule during martial law.

But the next Maria Corazon Sumulong Cojuangco (1933-2009) is not as “plain” as the film depicts, “she doesn’t even wear nail polish”; she comes from a prestigious Luzon family. Although the Aquino family had the intention to promote reforms, the relatively weak government was unable to function effectively due to factional strife and frequent military coups in the absence of a perfect constitutional system.

The political development of the Philippines, which is not mentioned in the film, is just like the wildlife island created by Imedi, which has been left unattended for tens of years, where the animals continue to inbreed and reproduce with deformed offspring, and maggots are moving on the wounds without proper care.

This has certainly become a metaphor for the collusion of political forces with capital and the inbreeding of factional families in the Philippines, where politics is passed down from generation to generation and becomes a family business. However, the real democracy that the people want is still up in the air.

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