The Kingmaker (film)
|Written by||Lauren Greenfield|
|Music by||Jocelyn Pook|
|Edited by||Per K. Kierkegaard|
The Kingmaker is a 2019 documentary film written and directed by Lauren Greenfield, featuring the political career of Imelda Marcos with a focus on the Marcos family's efforts to rehabilitate the family's image and to return to political power, including her plans to see her son Bongbong become President of the Philippines, and the alliance that Bongbong and Imee Marcos established with Rodrigo Duterte in his bid to win the 2016 Philippine presidential election.
The Kingmaker was nominated as best documentary at the London Film Festival and the Stockholm Film Festival, and for the Checkpoints Award at the Bergen International Film Festival. It was nominated for four categories in the 2019 Critic’s Choice Documentary Awards, eventually winning the award for Most Compelling Living Subject of a Documentary. It also received the Audience Award for Best Documentary Film at the Warsaw International Film Festival 2019.
Greenfield’s exploration of Imelda Marcos’s narrative takes on what the New York Times calls a “dialectic” approach, allowing Imelda to tell her narrative and slowly introducing opposing viewpoints as the movie progresses.
The film is organically divided into two parts, following the chronology of the events of Marcos’s life.
The first half focuses on Imelda’s life from the time she became first lady of the Philippines in 1965, through the 21 years where she and her husband ruled the Philippines, until they were deposed and forced into exile by the 1986 People Power revolution.
As described by IndieWire, the second half of the film “features survivors of her husband’s declaration of martial law and focuses on the political comeback of the Marcos family,” focused on the ascension of her son Bongbong Marcos to increasingly prominent national posts.
Aside from Imelda Marcos herself, other figures Greenfield featured in the documentary include Marcos' son, the vice-presidential candidate Bongbong Marcos; former Philippine President Benigno Aquino III; Vice president Leni Robredo who had defeated Bongbong Marcos in the 2016 Philippine Vice Presidential election; former Presidential Commission on Good Government head Andres D. Bautista; and Martial Law torture survivors including former Commission on Human Rights chair Etta Rosales, and journalist-screenwriter Pete Lacaba.
Portrayal of Marcos
In various interviews, Greenfield says she did not know this was going to be the case. She went into the first interviews with Marcos without knowing what to expect.
In an interview with Vox, Greenfield recounts thinking Imelda was being “surprisingly candid” in her her first interview, and that she first thought Marcos actually believed her own words. Greenfield only realized that some of Marcos’s statements were “obviously untrue” once she did further research. In later interviews, the topics got to “really egregious things,” which Greenfield says made it “really clear” Marcos was lying.
In an interview with Fortune, Greenfield says:
“She’s a narcissist. I think she does believe her own story, but the self-serving, strategic story, too. I think that in the past, people have made the mistake of thinking she’s delusional, and she kind of puts that out there, but I think it’s very strategic. She says early on in the film, “People underestimate women, and sometimes that’s useful.” I think people have underestimated her, and that’s made her only the more powerful and successful.”
Greenfield recounts that Marcos was so effective that test-viewers who watched the interviews could not tell whether or not Marcos was lying. So in order to make sure viewers understood that something Marcos was saying was untrue, Greenfield would intersperse interviews with people who knew otherwise, such as Martial Law torture victims and officials who investigated the Marcoses. This resulted in a narrative style which the New York Times described as “dialectic.”
Interviews as cinéma vérité
Another method Greenfield used in order to show that Imelda Marcos is an unreliable narrator was to turn the interviews into instances of Cinéma vérité, showing that Marcos was making efforts to project a pre-planned image of herself. One example prominently shown in early trailers shows how Marcos accidentally knocks over a glass picture frame, but doesn’t acknowledge the fact even while a uniformed servant cleans the glass shards off the floor for her.
Greenfield tells Fortune Magazine:
I see that scene as showing how unstoppable she is. […] I think about it more like she breaks things and she’s not even aware and lets other people clean up the mess. She doesn’t even acknowledge it. She’s telling her story about being friends with and courting all of the dictators of the 20th century, so she doesn’t pay attention to the wreckage around her and the fact that other people have to deal with it.
The film had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on August 29, 2019. It also screened at the Telluride Film Festival on August 31, 2019, and the Toronto International Film Festival on September 9, 2019. The film was released in the United States in a limited release on November 8, 2019, by Greenwich Entertainment. It was broadcast on Showtime on February 28, 2020.
The Kingmaker was nominated for numerous Best Documentary Awards, including the 2019 London Film Festival, the 2019 Stockholm Film Festival, the 2019 Bergen International Film Festival, the 2020 Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle Awards, the 2019 El Gouna Film Festival 2019, the 2020 Hollywood Critics Association Awards, the 2019 Philadelphia Film Critics Circle Awards, and the 2019 Warsaw International Film Festival (which it won).
It was also nominated for four categories in the 2019 Critic’s Choice Documentary Awards, eventually winning the award for Most Compelling Living Subject of a Documentary.
Greenfield also received a nomination at the 72nd Writers Guild of America Awards for Best Documentary Screenplay. With this second WGA nomination, she became the first woman ever to achieve this honor.
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- Dargis, Manohla (2019-11-06). "'The Kingmaker' Review: The Power and Vainglory of Imelda Marcos". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-11-13.
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- Bentley, Jean; Bentley, Jean (2019-10-14). "Will Imelda Marcos Documentary 'The Kingmaker' Play in the Philippines?". IndieWire. Retrieved 2019-11-13.
- "Untold story of 'pathetic' Imelda". philstar.com.
- Chua, Linus; Batino, Clarissa; Calonzo, Andreo (2019-11-02). "New Imelda Marcos Film Offers Her Version of Philippine History". Bloomberg. Bloomberg LP. Retrieved 2019-11-12.
- Schager, Nick (November 1, 2019). "A Scathing Portrait of the Female Donald Trump" – via www.thedailybeast.com.
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