The former first lady of the Philippines courted, claimed, used, and abused power for nearly four decades.

Film Signature Image
Independent Lens, Global Voices
Premiere Date
May 10, 2005
90 minutes
Funding Initiative
Open Call
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2003 International Documentary Association (IDA)-ABC News Video Source Award, Distinguished Documentary Achievement Awards
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2004 Sundance Film Festival-Excellence in Cinematography (Documentary)
  • Ramona S. Diaz

    Ramona S Diaz

    Ramona Diaz is an Asian American filmmaker best known for her compelling character-driven documentaries that have demonstrated her ability to gain intimate access to the people she films, resulting in keenly observed moments and nuanced narratives. Ramona’s credits include Spirits Rising (Student Academy Award, Ida Lupino DGA Award, Golden Gate Award from the SFIFF, IDA Certificate of Merit); Show more Imelda (Excellence in Cinematography Award, 2004 Sundance, IDA ABCNews Videosource Award, Independent Lens in 2005); The Learning (IDA Humanitas Award nomination, POV in 2011); Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey (2012 Tribeca Film Fest, closing night of the San Francisco International FF, opening night of 2012 Silverdocs (now AFIDocs); aired on Independent Lens in 2014).

    Diaz has received funding from ITVS, CAAM, MacArthur Foundation, Ford Foundation, Sundance, Tribeca, Catapult Film Fund, and Chicken & Egg. She was awarded a Fellowship by the Bogliasco Foundation in the autumn of 2015 where she was in residence at the Bogliasco Study Center in Italy, and she received a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation for film and video. She is a graduate of Emerson College and holds an M.A. in communication from Stanford University. Show less

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    The Film

    Few modern political figures have been as controversial, outspoken and perhaps misunderstood as Imelda Marcos, the former first lady of the Philippines and the subject of award-winning filmmaker Ramona Diaz's Imelda. For the first time, Marcos tells her own story on film: how she rose from humble origins to become one of the richest and most powerful women in contemporary world history.

    Universally known by her first name, or by her nickname, “The Iron Butterfly,” Imelda Marcos is the widow of Ferdinand Marcos, the exiled president of the Philippines. The Marcoses ruled the Philippines for nearly 20 years after Ferdinand Marcos became president in 1965, declaring martial law in 1972 and maintaining close ties with the U.S. during their time in office. But over time, opposition to Marcos's regime grew in the 1980s. After a controversial vote count in Ferdinand Marcos’s 1986 presidential run against Corazón Aquino — the widow of Marcos's slain political rival Benigno Aquino — a popular uprising forced the Marcoses from the Philippines to exile in Hawaii, where they lived until Ferdinand Marcos’s death.

    Imelda is told through exceptionally rare interviews with Marcos herself. Marcos is both vivaciously charming as she addresses the camera and perplexing as she expounds upon her personal cosmology, the corruption and human-rights abuse charges against her, and even her absurd collection of shoes.

    Awarded a Sundance 2004 prize for excellence in cinematography, Imelda is a visually stunning look at one of the world's most reviled and revered women.