June 30, 2004

Just Don't Mention The Shoes

In Ramona Diaz's documentary Imelda, currently playing at the Film Forum and held over for an extended run, Diaz allows the Filipino former dictator's wife to speak in her own words, which is at moments even more shocking than her legendary collection of shoes. Unlike other rulers who sucked their country dry of resources in pursuit of their own vanity such as Marie Antoinette or your sundry feudal lords, Imelda Marcos came to power during the television age and Diaz combines extensive archive footage with current interviews to show viewers the woman at close range. It turns out there's so much more to her than all those shoes, though not to worry the documentary gives a detailed enough look at all those '80s pumps to satisfy even the biggest shoe fetishist.

The scariest and simultaneously most fascinating thing about hearing Imelda speak is how much she thinks her actions were justified, even an aid to her country. Popularly elected in the mid '60s as President of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos and his former beauty queen wife seemed to be the Kennedys for South East Asia with all the optimism and dynamism necessary to transform a currently underdeveloped country. Only thing is, after 8 years in office they just decided not to leave and declared martial law, staying in power for the next 18 years as dictators. During this time, Imelda ordered acres of couture dresses, acted as ambassador to her country visiting despots from around the world, cozied up with the Reagans and built million dollar cultural centers for a country who lacked basic services in some areas. All the while, she believed she and her husband were a beacon of beauty to her country. She's even developed an almost cult-like religion around her theories of humanity and beauty, which she attempts to explain to the camera with a notebook and a sharpie pen. Bizarre and hilarious and sorta freaky, this earnest rationalizing must be seen to be believed.

Imelda is booked to begin playing in other cities besides New York around the country through the summer, check out the official website to see when it's coming to your town.

Posted by karen at June 30, 2004 8:01 AM