"I am looking like an airhead"

Despite the protests of its subject, "Imelda," a documentary about the life, loves and spending habits of Imelda Marcos, has opened to packed houses in Manila

Published July 22, 2004 1:41PM (EDT)

Her vast array of shoes became a symbol of her greed and untold wealth. Now, it seems, the boot is on the other foot.

A new film about the life, loves and spending habits of Imelda Marcos opened to packed houses in Manila yesterday, despite the protests of its subject.

"I am looking like an airhead, like a frivolous, wanton, extravagant women at the expense of the poor," Ms Marcos said.

"I am made to look like a cheap flirt, flirting with all the men of the world."

The 103-minute documentary, Imelda, which focuses on the role she played in the often brutal 22-year dictatorship of her husband, Ferdinand, almost did not make it to the big screen. Its release was delayed by arguably the best possible publicity, a legal challenge.

Ms Marcos, 75, argued tearfully in court that the film-maker, the Filipino-American Ramona Diaz, had tricked her into participating in the film by claiming that it was just an academic project and then set out to ridicule her.

Ms Marcos won round one, obtaining a temporary injunction banning release. But the court reversed its decision 10 days ago.

Diaz insists the film, for which she won the best cinematography award at the Sundance film festival, is an accurate and balanced take on Ms Marcos's life.

"She was a willing participant," Diaz told Reuters. "If you see the film, she is 80% of it. So this comes as a surprise to me that she filed the complaint."

Among the highlights are clips of the several thousand-strong shoe collection, a story about Ms Marcos almost being stabbed at a political rally -- but she was more concerned about the knife being ugly and poorly made than about her safety -- and how she thanked a US juror who acquitted her of graft by sending him a signed portrait and inviting him to parties.

Diaz does not speculate on how much money the Marcoses stashed away -- estimates range upwards from #2.7b -- or pass judgment on how she has avoided spending a night in jail despite facing dozens of criminal suits for allegedly embezzling money.

But she goes into detail about how the former beauty queen, who married her husband only 11 days after meeting him, thought it was her duty to lead a life of luxury.

A former acolyte, a senator, describes how he believed that the oppressed and destitute millions of rural Filipinos felt much better when they saw her on TV looking glamorous and obviously wealthy.

Many viewers' favourite moment has been when Ms Marcos draws a variety of pictures to demonstrate her philosophy of life. She explains, in a somewhat confusing manner, that the circle of life can also be a smiley face, but when it is broken it becomes a Pac-Man.

By John Aglionby

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