Few modern political figures have been as controversial, outspoken and perhaps misunderstood as Imelda Marcos, the former first lady of the Philippines and the subject of award-winning filmmaker Ramona Diaz's IMELDA. For the first time, Marcos tells her own story on film: how she rose from humble origins to become one of the richest and most powerful women in contemporary world history.
Universally known by her first name, or by her nickname, “The Iron Butterfly,” Imelda Marcos is the widow of the late Ferdinand Marcos, the exiled president of the Philippines. The Marcoses ruled the Philippines for nearly 20 years after Ferdinand Marcos became president in 1965, declaring martial law in 1972 and maintaining close ties with the U.S. during their time in office. Despite strict governmental control and violence, opposition to Marcos's regime continued to grow in the following years. After a controversial vote count in Ferdinand Marcos’s1986 presidential run against Corazón Aquino, the widow of slain political rival Benigno Aquino, a popular uprising forced the Marcoses to leave the Philippines and flee to Hawaii, where they lived in exile until Ferdinand Marcos’s death. Throughout their years in office, it was Imelda, whose beauty, cosmopolitan bearing and lavish tastes eventually brought her more fame—and perhaps even more power—than her husband.
IMELDA is told through exceptionally rare and original interviews with Marcos herself. Diaz and her crew were given unprecedented access to Marcos’s life, following her throughout the Philippines and even living in her home for a period of time. Marcos is both vivaciously charming as she addresses the camera and perplexing as she expounds upon her personal cosmology and addresses the question: What about all the shoes?
But IMELDA, like the woman herself, is about far more than just shoes. To this day, Filipinos demonstrate equal passion in either their adulation or loathing of this larger-than-life figure. Will Imelda Marcos finally be convicted of charges that range from graft to human rights abuses? And if she is, will a verdict against her restore a natural order to the Philippines, or merely add martyrdom to the weight of her symbolic claim? Shot by cinematographer Ferne Pearlstein in 16-millimeter film and awarded a Sundance 2004 prize for excellence in cinematography, IMELDA is a visually stunning look at one of the world's most reviled and revered women.
Filmmaker Ramona Diaz and her crew shot the majority of IMELDA in 1998 and 2001. In March 2005, Diaz reported:
Mrs. Marcos is still fighting her numerous court cases (when she’s not busy filing cases of her own), two of her children are still in government, and her third child is, and will remain, a private individual.
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Read the director's statement about making IMELDA >>
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Young Imelda Romualdez
Photo courtesy of The Lopez Museum
Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos with U.S. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson
Photo courtesy of The LBJ Library
Imelda Marcos in Manila residence, 1998