Diamonds in Diapers: Kingmaker (2019)

by Ace Balbarez

▶︎ The Kingmaker, a 2019 documentary film by the American Filmmaker Lauren Greenfield, presents a fair and safe exposition of the extravagant, the insane, and the Imeldific history of the Marcoses. Aside from new video footage from the Martial Law era, exclusive access to Imelda’s splendor, and compelling testimonials from political figures, the film did not offer anything else but a renewal of rage. What Kingmaker achieves is the reminder to Filipinos about the atrocities, the excesses, and the extreme narratives the Marcoses committed and perpetuated which are all continually manifested today. It’s a Filipino story told by a non-Filipino. And for better or for worse, Greenfield evidently has done her homework well. Started working on the documentary in 2014 with an initial and incomplete perception, she is able to link, situate, and reflect the past regime to the present political climate. The film chronicles events from the relationship of Ferdinand Marcos and Imelda Romualdez to their political ascendancy in the country. But the film did not limit itself from the historical and political; Kingmaker implicates the construction of a politician and a budding politician, and of a state and nation-building. Although the film almost celebrated Imelda (which can be misconstrued if it wasn’t for the careful editing), it is able to balance the exhibition through gathering testimonials from the “truth-tellers” and juxtapose them with the 'unreliable narrative' of Imelda herself.

The documentary, despite being patterned in the conventional Western filmmaking, does not have a narrator but relevant people expressing their minds with civility and sometimes arrogance. Ferdinand Marcos’ and Benigno Aquino’s old speeches and popular recordings, Bongbong Marcos’ and Noynoy Aquino’s interviews, Marcos’ close friends and Martial Law victims build the film’s narration which, to an extent, makes it dangerous. The insertion of Cory Aquino’s old interviews, Leni Robredo’s responses, and Andy Baustista’s career timeline over the film production contextually contribute more to the already apparent contrast and purposeful opposition of narratives. L. Greenfield lets the audience examine their moral compass and leaves them deciding whether to consume her film as crucial knowledge of the time or to reduce it as old information exposed to and made for foreign audiences.

Read the complete essay at The Boy Who Stutters.

Ace Balbarez is a Cine Critico Filipino member.