Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Imelda I Now Know Too Much of Thee

I first saw the documentary "Imelda" a year or two ago on PBS's documentary programme "Independent Lens". "Imelda" is a documentary about Imelda Marcos, that famous or perhaps better infamous former first lady of the Philippines and wife of Filipino president Ferdinand Marcos, the man who ruled the Philippines from 1965 to 1986 with, of course, American support. Thanks to her wardrobe Imelda has passed into popular folklore as a well known fashion diva who when she and her husband fled Manilla in 1986 left left behind over a thousand pairs of shoes and about a thousand handbags.

"Imelda" was directed by Ramona S. Diaz, a Filipina filmmaker now living in the United States. It was released in 2003. Diaz recently directed another fascinating documentary also shown on PBS, "The Learning". "The Learning' follows four Fillipina teachers as they take up teaching posts in the troubled Baltimore, Maryland School system.

Some have criticised "Imelda" for being too fair to Mrs. Marcos, for giving Mrs. Marcos too much screen time, and for allowing Imelda to speak her mind, too much of her mind. This criticism, however, at least in my opinion, is totally off the mark. By allowing Mrs. Marcos to speak for herself "Imelda" does not function as an apologia for Mrs. Marcos. Rather "Imelda" foregrounds the sadly all too common human tendency that Imelda expresses so well, the human tendency to create ideological driven positive justifications and imagined realities for our actions and behaviours. And it is this, this pulling back of the curtain on Imelda's rather ahistorical ideological rhetoric by counterpointing that rhetoric to historical reality in the form of archival footage and interviews with Mrs. Marcos's more historically literate critics, that makes Diaz'z "Imelda" so compelling a documentary to watch.

And oh thank you PBS Independent Lens for introducing me to this wonderful and important documentary. I now truly do know too much about thee Imelda Marcos. But I am glad that I do.

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