The Kingmaker (film)

The Kingmaker is a 2019 documentary film written and directed by Lauren Greenfield, featuring the political career of Imelda Marcos[6] with a focus on the Marcos family's efforts to rehabilitate the family's image and to return to political power,[7][8] including her plans to see her son Bongbong become President of the Philippines,[9][10] and the alliance that Bongbong and Imee Marcos established with Rodrigo Duterte in his bid to win the 2016 Philippine presidential election.[3][11]

The Kingmaker
The Kingmaker documentary poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by[1]
Written byLauren Greenfield[2]
Produced by
  • Lars Skree
  • Shana Hagan
Edited byPer K. Kierkegaard
Music byJocelyn Pook
Distributed by
Release date
  • August 30, 2019 (2019-08-30) (Venice)
  • November 8, 2019 (2019-11-08) (United States)
Running time
100 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$352,274[4][5]

It debuted internationally in August 2019 at the 76th Venice Film Festival,[12] and debuted in the Philippines on January 29, 2020.[13]

The Kingmaker was nominated as best documentary at the London Film Festival and the Stockholm Film Festival, and for the Checkpoints Award at the Bergen International Film Festival. It was nominated for four categories in the 2019 Critic’s Choice Documentary Awards, eventually winning the award for Most Compelling Living Subject of a Documentary. It also received the Audience Award for Best Documentary Film at the Warsaw International Film Festival 2019.

The film received critical acclaim and has a 97% Certified Fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes.[14] The critical consensus on Rotten Tomatoes reads, "The Kingmaker aims a disquieting spotlight at the private life of a divisive public figure -- as well as the ways in which unchecked power seduces and corrupts."[15]


Greenfield’s exploration of Imelda Marcos’s narrative takes on what the New York Times calls a “dialectic” approach, allowing Imelda to tell her narrative and slowly introducing opposing viewpoints as the movie progresses.[3]

The film is organically divided into two parts, following the chronology of the events of Marcos’s life.

The first half focuses on Imelda’s life from the time she became first lady of the Philippines in 1965, through the 21 years where she and her husband ruled the Philippines, until they were deposed and forced into exile by the 1986 People Power revolution.[8][16]

As described by IndieWire, the second half of the film “features survivors of her husband’s declaration of martial law and focuses on the political comeback of the Marcos family,”[6] focused on the ascension of her son Bongbong Marcos to increasingly prominent national posts.[17]

Subjects featuredEdit

Aside from Imelda Marcos herself, other figures Greenfield featured in the documentary include Marcos' son, the vice-presidential candidate Bongbong Marcos; former Philippine President Benigno Aquino III; Vice president Leni Robredo who had defeated Bongbong Marcos in the 2016 Philippine Vice Presidential election; former Presidential Commission on Good Government head Andres D. Bautista; and Martial Law torture survivors including former Commission on Human Rights chair Etta Rosales, and journalist-screenwriter Pete Lacaba.

Portrayal of MarcosEdit

In numerous promotional interviews, Greenfield characterizes Imelda Marcos as the documentary’s unreliable narrator.[2][1][10]

In various interviews, Greenfield says she did not know this was going to be the case. She went into the first interviews with Marcos without knowing what to expect.[2]

In an interview with Vox,[2] Greenfield recounts thinking Imelda was being “surprisingly candid” in her first interview, and that she first thought Marcos actually believed her own words. Greenfield only realized that some of Marcos’s statements were “obviously untrue” once she did further research. In later interviews, the topics got to “really egregious things,” which Greenfield says made it “really clear” Marcos was lying.

In an interview with Fortune,[1] Greenfield says:

“She’s a narcissist. I think she does believe her own story, but the self-serving, strategic story, too. I think that in the past, people have made the mistake of thinking she’s delusional, and she kind of puts that out there, but I think it’s very strategic. She says early on in the film, “People underestimate women, and sometimes that’s useful.” I think people have underestimated her, and that’s made her only the more powerful and successful.”[1]

Dialectic approachEdit

Greenfield recounts that Marcos was so effective that test-viewers who watched the interviews could not tell whether or not Marcos was lying.[2] So in order to make sure viewers understood that something Marcos was saying was untrue, Greenfield would intersperse interviews with people who knew otherwise, such as Martial Law torture victims and officials who investigated the Marcoses. This resulted in a narrative style which the New York Times described as “dialectic.”[3]

Interviews as cinéma véritéEdit

Another method Greenfield used in order to show that Imelda Marcos is an unreliable narrator was to turn the interviews into instances of Cinéma vérité, showing that Marcos was making efforts to project a pre-planned image of herself.[2] One example prominently shown in early trailers shows how Marcos accidentally knocks over a glass picture frame, but doesn’t acknowledge the fact even while a uniformed servant cleans the glass shards off the floor for her.[1]

Greenfield tells Fortune Magazine:[1]

I see that scene as showing how unstoppable she is. […] I think about it more like she breaks things and she’s not even aware and lets other people clean up the mess. She doesn’t even acknowledge it. She’s telling her story about being friends with and courting all of the dictators of the 20th century, so she doesn’t pay attention to the wreckage around her and the fact that other people have to deal with it.[1]


The film had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on August 29, 2019.[18] It also screened at the Telluride Film Festival on August 31, 2019,[19] and the Toronto International Film Festival on September 9, 2019.[20] The film was released in the United States in a limited release on November 8, 2019, by Greenwich Entertainment.[21] It was broadcast on Showtime on February 28, 2020.[22]


The Kingmaker was nominated for numerous Best Documentary Awards, including the 2019 London Film Festival, the 2019 Stockholm Film Festival, the 2019 Bergen International Film Festival, the 2020 Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle Awards, the 2019 El Gouna Film Festival 2019, the 2020 Hollywood Critics Association Awards, the 2019 Philadelphia Film Critics Circle Awards, and the 2019 Warsaw International Film Festival (which it won).

It was also nominated for four categories in the 2019 Critic’s Choice Documentary Awards, eventually winning the award for Most Compelling Living Subject of a Documentary.

Greenfield also received a nomination at the 72nd Writers Guild of America Awards for Best Documentary Screenplay.[23] With this second WGA nomination, she became the first woman ever to achieve this honor.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Enos, Morgan (2019-11-08). "'The Kingmaker' Tackles the Truths and 'Horrors' Surrounding Imelda Marcos". Fortune. Retrieved 2019-11-14.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Wilkinson, Alissa (2019-11-14). "How to make a damning documentary about a world-class liar". Vox. Retrieved 2019-11-15.
  3. ^ a b c d Dargis, Manohla (2019-11-06). "'The Kingmaker' Review: The Power and Vainglory of Imelda Marcos". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-11-13.
  4. ^ "The Kingmaker (2019)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved February 15, 2021.
  5. ^ "The Kingmaker (2019)". The Numbers. IMDb. Retrieved February 15, 2021.
  6. ^ a b Bentley, Jean; Bentley, Jean (2019-10-14). "Will Imelda Marcos Documentary 'The Kingmaker' Play in the Philippines?". IndieWire. Retrieved 2019-11-13.
  7. ^ "Untold story of 'pathetic' Imelda".
  8. ^ a b Chua, Linus; Batino, Clarissa; Calonzo, Andreo (2019-11-02). "New Imelda Marcos Film Offers Her Version of Philippine History". Bloomberg. Bloomberg LP. Retrieved 2019-11-12.
  9. ^ Schager, Nick (November 1, 2019). "A Scathing Portrait of the Female Donald Trump" – via
  10. ^ a b Miller, Julie (2019-11-08). "The Kingmaker: Inside Imelda Marcos's Grand, Present-Day Delusions". Vanity Fair. Condé Nast. Retrieved 2019-11-13.
  11. ^ Kaufman, Amy (2019-11-08). "How dangerous can a president be? Lauren Greenfield's Imelda Marcos documentary 'The Kingmaker' has some answers". The LA Times. Retrieved 2019-11-13.
  12. ^ Debruge, Peter (August 30, 2019). "Film Review: 'The Kingmaker'".
  13. ^ Yang, Angelica (2020-01-30). "Teachers, elders urged to tell the truth about martial law to young people". GMA News Online. Archived from the original on 2020-01-30. Retrieved 2020-01-30.
  14. ^ [1]. Metacritic. Retrieved on December 12, 2019.
  15. ^ "The Kingmaker". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved October 30, 2021.
  16. ^ Shaffer, Marshall (2019-11-11). "Interview: Lauren Greenfield on The Kingmaker and Threats to Democracy". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 2019-11-14.
  17. ^ Sarmiento, Menchu Aquino (2020-01-30). "Unholy Mother, Our Lady of Limitless Lies". Business World Online. Archived from the original on 2020-01-30. Retrieved 2020-02-03.
  18. ^ Tartaglione, Nancy (25 July 2019). "Venice Film Festival 2019 Lineup: Polanski, 'Joker', 'The Laundromat', 'Ad Astra', 'Marriage Story' In Competition – Full List Awards". Deadline. Retrieved 20 February 2019.
  19. ^ Hammond, Pete (August 29, 2019). "Telluride Film Festival: 'Ford V Ferrari', 'Judy', 'Motherless Brooklyn', Weinstein-Inspired Drama 'The Assistant' Among Premieres Headed To 46th Edition – Full List". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 15, 2021.
  20. ^ "The Kingmaker". Toronto International Film Festival. Retrieved February 15, 2021.
  21. ^ Wiseman, Andreas (September 30, 2019). "'The Kingmaker': Showtime's Fest Favorite Gets U.S. Theatrical Run With Greenwich Entertainment, First Trailer". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 15, 2021.
  22. ^ Turchiano, Danielle (January 13, 2020). "'Love Fraud,' 'The Longest War,' 'The Kingmaker' Among Showtime Documentary Films 2020 Slate". Variety. Retrieved February 15, 2021.
  23. ^ Lindhal, Chris (1 February 2020). "Writers Guild Awards 2020: 'Parasite' and 'JoJo Rabbit' Win Screenplay Awards". IndieWire. Retrieved 3 February 2020.

External linksEdit