Family plot: 'The Kingmaker'

  • by David Lamble
  • Tuesday December 17, 2019
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Family plot: 'The Kingmaker'

In director Laura Greenfield's poignant new doc "The Kingmaker," the dark recent history of the Philippines is explored around the bigger-than-life history of former first lady Imelda Marcos. Widow to the brutal late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, a man charged with plundering his third-world nation's wealth and having his main rival assassinated, Imelda tells her "truth" against the backdrop of events wild and surreal enough to be the plot for a Shakespearean tragedy or a Marx Brothers comedy.

For Americans exhausted by the daily soap opera of the Trump impeachment, "The Kingmaker" is a well-researched cautionary tale of what can befall a nation that allows a familial pack of jackals to loot the resources of a struggling, impoverished country. The film includes images of the widow Marcos' infamous 3,000 pairs of shoes, plus shots of the wild African animals imported to a private zoo by the dictator, with the resulting resettlement of rural residents.

Deftly employing film clips from American network news programs of the Marcos era (late 60s- late 80s) mixed with contemporary chats with Marcos critics, Greenfield has returned to the brand of hard-hitting investigative doc-making that she demonstrated in the acclaimed film "The Queen of Versailles." Her new film describes the 2016 election of the current strongman Rodrigo Duterte and his bloody crackdown on "drug dealers," and relates the attempted comeback by Marcos offspring Bongbong Marcos, Jr., who narrowly loses to a crowded field of candidates for the country's vice-presidency.

An anti-corruption investigator ruefully expresses his concerns about the motives of the Marcos family: "They scrubbed clean the sins of the past, and they are trying to project themselves as the leaders of the future." Now playing.