Kingmaker, The (2019)

If politics can be beguiling, then this documentary about Imelda Marcos entertainingly captures the ups and downs of The Philippines’ larger sociopolitical history with aplomb. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Dir. Lauren Greenfield
2019 | Denmark/USA | Documentary | 101 mins | English
PG13 (passed clean) for some disturbing scenes and sexual references

Plot: An extraordinary look into the controversial political career of Imelda Marcos, this documentary tells a cautionary tale of a powerful female leader whose questionable sense of reality divided a nation.
Awards: Official Selection (Venice)
International Sales:
Dogwoof (SG: Anticipate Pictures)

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Politics, History
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream

Viewed: Screener
Spoilers: No

I must confess that I know nothing about the politics of our Southeast Asian neighbour, but The Kingmaker is a fantastic way to get acquainted. 

Director Lauren Greenfield makes the distant past so palatable and entertaining that it is hard not to be immersed by the ups and downs of The Philippines’ larger sociopolitical history up till the present Duterte administration. 

The focal point is, of course, the leading lady Imelda Marcos, wife of the late Ferdinand Marcos, who was President from 1965 to 1986. 

She is sprightly in interviews, though a sense of melancholy seems to cloud her persona, as she laments that she could have done more for her country if she was still in power. 

The Kingmaker is quite an extraordinary work inasmuch as it balances the ex-First Lady’s views toward her loyal fans, staunch critics, contested national history and more, while at the same time ensuring views from the other side—the opposition if you will—who suffered under the violent hands of Marcos’ regime during dark periods of the country’s past, get to speak their minds as well. 

Politics can be beguiling, and Greenfield’s strong journalistic approach and easy-to-absorb filmmaking style very much align with its nature. 

The Kingmaker doesn’t quite paint Imelda as a hero or a villain—she is what she is; but it does suggest some disconcerting truths about the state of her country’s political affairs, and the lessons we might draw in relation to unchecked power and wealth for my own Singapore.  

Grade: A-


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