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Imelda (film)

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Directed by Ramona S. Diaz
Produced by Ramona S. Diaz
Music by Bob Aves
Grace Nono
Cinematography Ferne Pearlstein
Edited by Leah Marino
Distributed by Unitel Pictures
Release date
  • November 23, 2003 (2003-11-23) (Amsterdam)
Running time
103 minutes
Country Philippines
Language Filipino, English
Box office US$500,992 (Worldwide)

Imelda is a 2003 documentary film directed by Ramona S. Diaz about the life of Imelda Marcos, former First Lady of the Philippines. Beginning with her childhood, the film documents her marriage to future President of the Philippines Ferdinand Marcos, her rule under the dictatorship, her exile in Hawaii and her eventual return to the Philippines.

Reviews were largely favorable and it won the Excellence in Cinematography Award Documentary award at Sundance Film Festival in 2004. Imelda outsold Spider-Man 2 in the Philippines, but only took US$200,992 at the US box office with an additional US$300,000 worldwide. Reviews from critics are favorable with a 94% fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes and a 69/100 from Metacritic.


Diaz followed Imelda Marcos, the former First Lady of the Philippines, for a month and interviewed her daughter Imee and her son Ferdinand, Jr.[1] The film incorporates third party interviews and archive material; it recounts Imelda's life, including her marriage to her husband, Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos.[2] Discussing the Marcos presidency, Imelda says that there were no human rights abuses in her country;[2] she says that her husband abolished Congress and declared martial law in 1972 to protect democracy.[1] She says that she took 3,000 pairs of shoes with her when she went into exile, and justifies her extravagant clothing by saying that it "inspired the poor to dress better".[1] She also says that she had enormous museums and theaters constructed to enrich the lives of Filipinos.[1]

Imelda says in one vignette that she had met United States Army General Douglas MacArthur during his landing in Tacloban at the end of World War II, and that McArthur insisted that she should perform for the composer Irving Berlin, She sang "God Bless the Philippines" and when Berlin asked her why she sang the lyrics incorrectly she said, "what's the difference between America and the Philippines?"[3] The assassination attempt on Imelda and the assassination of Benigno Aquino, Jr. are featured in the film.[4] Footage from parties held by the Marcos couple, including one during which actor George Hamilton sang "I can't give you anything but love, Imelda", are also used in the film.[3]

Release and reception[edit]

Imelda Marcos in 2006

Imelda had its world premiere at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam and its North American premiere in the documentary competition of the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Excellence in Cinematography Award Documentary.[5] The film was also screened at the Maryland Film Festival in Baltimore.

Critical reviews were mostly favorable.[6][7][8][9] The film has a 94% fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes and a 69/100 from Metacritic.[10][11] The website Film Threat commended the film's treatment of the subject's flaws because it "allows her to describe them herself";[1] TV Guide called Imelda "an entertaining storyteller".[12] The New York Times said the film is "a devastating portrait" and equates the theme of Imelda with that of delusion and power.[13] The San Francisco Chronicle said it was "spellbinding".[3]

Both the Chronicle and Variety consider the film balanced and even-handed.[3][14] Variety said that Imelda—who has been accustomed to public attention since her teenage years, was convinced that her charm and charisma would create a more favorable impression in the film than might otherwise be expected. It said that "her defenses of her husband and his regime are obviously filled with rationalizations and obfuscations".[14] Other reviewers were more scathing,[1] or note her distorted reality and the many contradictions with which she lives.[3][14]

The film took US$200,992 at the box office in the United States.[15] In the Philippines, Imelda obtained a temporary injunction that prevented it being shown for a brief time. When the injunction was canceled and the film was released, it earned more than Spider-Man 2 and was considered a smash hit.[2] Outside the US, the film received box office revenue of US$300,000.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Imelda. Film Threat. Retrieved on January 8, 2014.
  2. ^ a b c "A walk in the shoes of Imelda Marcos". The Boston Globe. Published on August 6, 2004. Retrieved on January 8, 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d e Film clips / Also opening today. San Francisco Chronicle. Published on June 11, 2004. Retrieved on January 8, 2014.
  4. ^ 'Imelda': Don't Cry for Her. The Washington Post. Published on July 16, 2004. Retrieved on January 8, 2014.
  5. ^ Keen, Adam (1 October 2004). Film Review 2004–2005: The Definitive Film Yearbook. Reynolds & Hearn. 
  6. ^ Walk in her shoes. Published on December 1, 2004. Retrieved on January 8, 2014.
  7. ^ Imelda. Deseret News. Published on December 2, 2004. Retrieved on January 8, 2014.
  8. ^ Short Reviews: Imelda. The Phoenix. Published on August 6–12, 2004. Retrieved on January 8, 2014.
  9. ^ Movie guide. Christian Science Monitor. Published on June 18, 2004. Retrieved on January 8, 2014.
  10. ^ Imelda. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved on January 8, 2014.
  11. ^ Imelda. Metacritic. Retrieved on January 8, 2014.
  12. ^ Imelda. TV Guide. Retrieved on January 8, 2014.
  13. ^ For a Regal Pariah, Despite It All, the Shoe Is Never on the Other Foot. The New York Times. Published on June 9, 2004. Retrieved on January 8, 2014.
  14. ^ a b c Review: ‘Imelda’. Variety. Published on March 17, 2004. Retrieved on January 8, 2014.
  15. ^ Imelda. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved on January 8, 2014.
  16. ^ "Imelda". The Numbers (Nash Information Services). Retrieved February 20, 2014. 

External links[edit]