The Kingmaker (and the politics of Imelda Marcos): Documentary Review


I was seriously expecting The Kingmaker to be a documentary favorable to the Marcoses, given that it was being shown at the Cultural Center of the Philippines and former First Lady Imelda Marcos was its patron. However, I was pleasantly surprised that it presented an insightful documentary true to its purpose, highlighting the role of Imelda as a Kingmaker.

Showing a documentary about the Philippines is rather tricky. Reception is likely to be biased towards the viewers’ political leanings. Whether or not they agree with the information provided by the sources is a challenge as everything is clouded by one’s interpretation

This is why The Kingmaker was an interesting documentary. It was filmed over roughly three years from 2014 during the administration of former President Noynoy Aquino and until Duterte won by a landslide victory in 2016.

To cement the credibility of the documentary, Emmy award-winning filmmaker Lauren Greenfield interviewed Imelda Marcos herself and let her freely tell her version of history. Her words provided key insights into her evolution from a beauty queen to one of the most powerful women in the country’s history, her obsession with beauty, her determination to get her way and finally, her politics.

During one of the interviews, Bongbong Marcos nailed it when he said that the best politician that he knew was his mother. It was true. With a shrewdness that would put world leaders to shame, Imelda built her clout over her years as the first lady and used these projects as leverage for political alliances in all parts of the country. These alliances brought their family back to power even after the People Power revolution in 1986. The same loyalty is still being enjoyed by the Marcoses decades after they left the Palace, and its all thanks to Imelda.

Imelda is a walking contradiction. She claims to be penniless but could not resist her ownership of beautiful things such as Monet and Michaelangelo paintings, framed in gold. She claims to be a simple widow but she commanded her family’s political direction and the preservation of their dynasty. 

After watching The Kingmaker, I was convinced that in her mind, she did believe that she is doing what is best for the country. However, it is not something she is doing out if love for the country but rather her love for the limelight and her penchant for public approval. She loved to be adored and she could not stand to be judged harshly by anyone.

I loved that the documentary made use of interviews from credible sources, to ordinary people who were for and against the former First Family. While the slant was more anti-Martial Law, the documentary acknowledged the sector that still believed that the Martial Law years did the country some good.

It also shone the parallels between two strongmen rule in the Philippines at the time of Marcos and Duterte by using actual footage from the past to illustrate the political climate in these two timelines. It also shows how the past casts in long shadow over the present as it explains the strategic alliance between the Philippines and the US, thus raising questions about the current state of affairs where the Visiting Forces Agreement hangs in the balance. 

Politics was a moving force behind the documentary. The strategic movement of people in key positions, the controversial election results, political dynasties and the like. And with Imelda’s repeated statements about mothering the country and her claims to want to restore paradise in the Philippines, you can’t help but admire her for disguising her determination and ambition in soft words and her fragile state of health. For anyone who would watch this documentary, it is obvious that Imelda is not ready to retire from politics just yet. She is until the end of her days a Kingmaker and she will not rest until her only son returns to the Throne.

Whether or not you are for or against the Marcoses, The Kingmaker does deliver on its promise of providing an insightful look into a woman whose real-life exploits can put the politics of Daenerys Targaryen and Cersei Lannister combined, to shame.