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IMELDA

First, the shoes: at the beginning of Ramona S. Diazís funny and dismaying documentary about the former first lady of the Philippines, an unnamed newscaster notes that should Imelda Marcos decide to wear a different pair of shoes every day, she could do so for eight years. Thatís one way of dismissing as a joke a woman who with her husband pillaged her country and blackmailed ours out of billions. Who reduced her beloved homeland to poverty, despair, and insurgency and did so without culpability and with a clear conscience.

What was her secret? A combination of guile, gloss, and self-delusion, Diaz suggests. Artfully intercutting present-day interviews with Marcos, her family, and her cronies with comments by opposition leaders, journalists (Philip Bronstein, a correspondent in the Philippines during the Marcos era, adds a lot), and historians, the filmmaker provides a she-said/they-said account of the coupleís reign (also fascinating is Imeldaís illustrated explanation of her loony theory of love). They started with glitzy populism, settled into demonizing their opponents and suppressing dissent, and finally resorted to martial law. Only when popular rival Benito Aquino was assassinated, in 1983, did it all come apart.

Their tactics are familiar to anyone following politics. The key to success seems to be total ignorance of oneís guilt. Itís contagious: in an interview with a member of New York jury that acquitted her of her numerous crimes, the juror proudly displays a signed photo of Imelda. Now, Marcos is back in the Philippines, and her children are holding public offices. And she still has the shoes. In English and Tagalog with English subtitles. (103 minutes)

BY PETER KEOUGH

Issue Date: August 6 - 12, 2004
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