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“I had a very unreliable narrator,” filmmaker Lauren Greenfield told the Documentary Roundtable of Filipino politician and The Kingmaker subject Imelda Marcos. “[Marcos] was savvier about the media than any of us,” he said. Marcos told Greenfield, “Perception is real and truth is not” and “the media is more dangerous than the gun, because the gun just kills you to the grave, but the media kills you to infinity and beyond.”
“[Marcos] had no character development,” Greenfield explained to the roundtable, saying, “She kind of stuck to her story. It was really the world around her that changed.”
He continued: “My view of [Marcos] and relationship to her really changed as I realized how unreliable a narrator she was and also how dangerous it was that what seemed like maybe funny or frivolous in the beginning, became deadly serious by the time she’s aligned with [Rodrigo] Duterte” [the current president of the Philippines known for his practice of extrajudicial executions on his own people, among other human rights violations].
Greenfield admits to taking two years to edit the film: “We didn’t have an ending until Duterte was elected. That changed everything, you know, the history repeating itself, going back to dictatorship. What started as a kind of almost historical film became a kind of history of the present because the election dredged up all of this history.”
The Kingmaker is now in select theaters and on Showtime.
The full Documentary Roundtable is set to air Feb. 9 on SundanceTV. Greenfield appears on the roundtable panel along with Asif Kapadia (Diego Maradona), Todd Douglas Miller (Apollo 11), Nanfu Wang (One Child Nation), Julia Reichert (American Factory) and Alex Gibney (Citizen K) to discuss the space for documentaries in a changing industry, how to choose and secure a subject and the increased need to stand against propaganda. Follow all the Oscar-season roundtables at THR.com/Roundtables.
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