Rather than simply retelling events, I am drawn to exploring the way power is harnessed, and especially how it may be seized by charismatic individuals in the name of the people, and then reclaimed by the people when collectively they are able to break the spell.
In my film Imelda (2005), I tried to understand how Imelda Marcos, in her role as First Lady of the Philippines, was able not to steal power from the Filipino people, but to use their fascination with myth and symbols, their pride and their deep insecurities to coax power from them during the interminable and dispiriting years of martial law. In Spirits Rising (1996), I tried to understand how the grassroots People Power movement was able to catalyze and sustain an insurrection that ended the 20-year regime of President Ferdinand Marcos and sent him into exile in 1986.
In The Learning, I wanted to look at power from another vantage point. I conceived of this film as a sort of “reverse angle” response to both Imelda Marcos and the female insurgents who took part in overthrowing the Marcos government. Whereas Imelda Marcos was charming and ruthless in her pursuit of power, the Filipino teachers in this film are women cornered by economic circumstances. Whereas the women of the People Power uprising empowered themselves within the context of a movement to secure the future of the Philippines, the teachers are a sort of study in acting in isolation, as they are entirely on their own in trying to secure brighter futures for their children.
I make films about the Philippines because it’s what I know. I have a great advantage when it comes to looking at the Philippines, because, while I was born and raised there, I’ve lived my entire adult life in the United States. I’m both an insider and an outsider, which allows me to have a very distinct point of view.
— Ramona Diaz, Director/Producer/Writer