Former Filipino first lady Imelda Marcos is best remembered for what remained in her closets after she and her husband, Ferdinand Marcos, were finally forced into exile in after 20 years of reckless rule: buckets of jewels, racks of hand-embroidered gowns and a designer shoe collection that some claim numbered 3000 pairs. But Ramona S. Diaz's informative...read more
Former Filipino first lady Imelda Marcos is best remembered for what remained in her closets after she and her husband, Ferdinand Marcos, were finally forced into exile in after 20 years of reckless rule: buckets of jewels, racks of hand-embroidered gowns and a designer shoe collection that some claim numbered 3000 pairs. But Ramona S. Diaz's informative and hugely entertaining documentary makes abundantly clear that Imelda's ludicrous extravagance was the outward manifestation of a deep and unconscionable corruption that characterized the Marcos regime. Born into a powerful Southern-Filipino political clan, Imelda moved to post-WWII Manila in 1952, determined to make a name for herself; she placed second in the Miss Manila pageant but after angrily contesting the decision was named the "Muse of Manila." She found sudden fame and, eventually, great fortune when she was swept off her feet by Ferdinand Marcos, then a handsome young representative in the Philippine congress. They married after an 11-day courtship, but the publicity and Marcos's control over every facet of his new wife's personal life (an intriguing aspect of the Marcos' marriage Diaz unfortunately leaves unexplored) proved too much, and the new Mrs. Marcos suffered a breakdown. By Imelda's account, her husband offered to abandon his career; touched by his devotion, she rallied and threw herself into the role of political wife, charming Marcos's constituency like Jackie Kennedy, reaching out to the rural poor like Eva Peron and soon evincing an increasing love of luxury and an obliviousness to real suffering that recalled Marie Antoinette. When the Marcoses moved into the presidential palace in 1966, the Johnson administration wholeheartedly embraced their new regime as one of Asia's few stable democracies — and host to two crucial U.S. military bases. The island nation was the recipient of considerable American largess and it's widely alleged that many of those dollars found their way into the Marcos' private coffers, funding Imleda's lavish homes, wardrobe and vanity building projects while thousands in the countryside starved. Each tale of cronyism, corruption and murder offered by politicians, opposition party members and journalists is here countered by Imelda herself, who speaks of love, God, beauty and her innocence as if they're viable planks on a political platform. When she's not babbling about the weird symbological system that rules her personal cosmos Imelda is an entertaining storyteller, vividly describing a life that became a national embarrassment and a camp legend. Shortly after the film's US opening, Mrs. Marcos asked a Manila court to bar the film's release in the Philippines on the grounds that the producers betrayed her trust.
In English and Tagalog, with English subtitles.)
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