The Kingmaker

Review by Willard Manus

“There is no odor so bad as that which arises from goodness tainted.” Thoreau’s words came back to me while watching THE KINGMAKER, Lauren Greenfield’s riveting documentary about Imelda Marcos, widow of the late Filipino dictator, Ferdinand Marcos.

Imelda was a poor but upright girl when she married Ferdinand and became the country’s First Lady. It didn’t take long for power to corrupt her. She began dipping into public funds to buy real estate, jewelry, dresses, paintings and three or four thousand pairs of shoes–-insisting all the while that she was “the mother of the Filipines” and the “nation’s savior.”

In THE KINGMAKER, the aged, overweight, heavily Botoxed Imelda–-she looks like Jonathan Winters in drag–-proudly shows off her loot, which is on display everywhere in the Filipino mansion in which she lives today, surrounded by toadies and sycophants who fawn over her with sickening obeisance.

But THE KINGMAKER is more than just a portrait of a greedy, grotesque old woman. Greenfield’s film goes much deeper and further than that. Using home movies and historical footage, talking-head interviews and investigative journalism, THE KINGMAKER shows how Imelda and her clan have once again taken control of the Filipines and are running it as they see fit.

Ferdinand Marcos is dead, entombed in a glass coffin like Lenin, and his widow Imelda has been exposed for the horror she is, but the billions they stole still sit in banks and investments around the world. This vast fortune has enabled Imelda to wield power over the Filipines, become a kingmaker.

Opposition leaders made a push to try and locate those funds and return them to the nation, but a rigged election resulted in a law being passed that curtailed any further investigations. Emboldened, Imelda’s next step was to encourage one of her sons, a spoiled brat named Bong Bong, to run for Vice President. Then she bankrolled the election campaign of the man who eventually became president of the Filipines, an ex-cop named Rodrigo Duterte.

A “strong man” like Ferdinand Marcos before him, Duterte has ruled over the Filipines with a ruthless hand, using martial law to execute (without a trial) those he deems dangerous or subversive (drug dealers, drug addicts, journalists, intellectuals, civil-rights leaders). This despot has won the praise of our president, who called him “a very great man”...and showered him with military and financial aid. Duterte also receives lavish support from Imelda Marcos, his secret boss.

THE KINGMAKER is a portrait of the “real” Imelda Marcos. The woman we have always thought of as a comic character, The Shoe Lady, is in truth one of the most sinister and evil women the world has ever known.