MANILA — It’s the best birthday present imaginable for the Philippines’ former First Lady Imelda Marcos.
A 20-day restraining order against “Imelda,” the controversial documentary about her life that won a cinematography award at Sundance, was put in place here in her homeland on June 24.
The pic was due to open July 7 in the Philippines, just days after her 75th birthday on July 2.
The 103-minute film shows how personal and public power, myth, illusion and reality intersect in the life of the widow of President Ferdinand Marcos, who declared martial law in 1972 and was forced into exile in Hawaii in 1986 in the People Power revolt.
“Imelda” has already opened in the U.S. in New York, San Francisco, Berkeley, San Diego, Chicago, Denver and Honolulu. It opens in Los Angeles in July and in Seattle, Atlanta, Boston and St. Louis in August and September.
But its bow at home could be some way off.
Marcos’ lawyers filed the request for the temporary restraining order against the doc with the Makati Regional Court on June 16, citing invasion of privacy and saying, “The unauthorized documentary (portrays the Marcoses) with malice, inaccuracies and innuendoes.”
The doc was made by Baltimore-based Ramona S. Diaz, who interviewed Marcos in 1993 when she was at Stanford U. working on her master’s degree about women who protested against the Marcos regime.
Diaz says she returned to interview Marcos in 1996 for the “Imelda” doc. Two years later, she went back and followed her around for a month to get footage.
“Before the first interview, I was told that it was to last no more than 15 minutes and I was not to ask her about the events of 1986,” the year the Marcoses entered exile.
“Five hours later, we were still at her apartment suite high above Manila and she had told me about ‘that fateful night in 1986.’ I did not ask her about it, she volunteered the story,” Diaz says.
“She was charming and humorous on the one hand, self-absorbed and crafty on the other,” helmer notes. “I was surprised and in a sense ashamed at how much I enjoyed her company. It was uncomfortable given all the stories I heard growing up — the corruption, the human rights abuses, the legacy spawned by the Marcos regime. I wanted to examine this duality of attraction and repulsion further. Thus the idea for the film ‘Imelda’ was born.”
Imelda herself spices up the docu with quotes such as, “Thank God when they opened the closet, they found shoes, not skeletons” — a reference to her famous predilection for footwear. Thousands of pairs of shoes were found at the presidential palace when Marcos was deposed.
In her court petition, Marcos said she “never waived her constitutional right to privacy, hence this opposition to the production, filming and eventual exhibition of the said documentary.”