'Maid in Malacañang,' Imee's opus

'Maid in Malacañang,' Imee's opus Featured

I WATCHED the film "Maid in Malacañang" (MnM) at its premiere showing at the Gaisano Theater in Davao City last month. The last time I went to a film premiere was four or five decades ago at Garmon or Galaxy, movie houses that are now defunct. The film, "The Godfather," or was it James Bond's "Goldfinger" — I cannot remember now. It was a one-day screening affair. The movie series was much anticipated that we just had to see the premiere, buying our tickets from scalpers at prices several times over that of the takilya.

MnM was different. My wife and I were invited to the VIP section for free. The 300 seating capacity was half-occupied although seats were paid for by the local organizers — presumably, the theater owner. As in any premiere showing in Hollywood for a hyped-up movie, the local premiere was complete with the installed red carpet — where the invited local "who's who" were ushered in to walk through.

The movie

To make a movie, a script has to be written first. The visual narrative needs to follow the script weaving around the story it intends to portray. The director on the other hand has total control of the making of the film. The film is the director's medium — and does with it whatever he wants — sometimes diverging away from the script or the original intent of the narrative. Often, this creates a conflict between the scriptwriter and the director. Not in this one. Darryl Yap the scriptwriter is also its director and therefore, presumably, should have control of the flow of the narrative, the sequencing and more importantly, its veracity that must contribute overall toward a finished film.

In this case the scriptwriter-director needs to be true to his craft and research deeply the story to be depicted. But this movie is more than an art medium. As the executive producer and consultant, Sen. Imee Marcos herself declared: "It's about time we tell our story, too, about what happened in Malacañang ... about what we know ... we're just telling the story we know, from our point of view. We're not changing anything from what they say. We're not revising anything. It's totally inaccurate to say that. We're simply explaining the happenings in our final three days in [the Palace]."

"And I think the people have the right to know what was happening back then ...unfortunately, there will have to be some truths told and some lies, debunked, finally." (PDI, July 22, 2022)

With her declaration, the scriptwriter-director may have subsumed his creative control over the film, presumably surrendering to the good senator who has a bigger stake in the emotional impact of the film. The movie, I'm afraid, has now been captured by the senator herself, relegating the scriptwriter-director to a mere handyman, doing odd jobs, perhaps a notch above a film editor. But if one is paid well, the hell with creative control!


Thus, the movie has been elevated into something more than an ordinary film. It has polarized moviegoers. One person's truth is another man's prevarications. And the detractors of the movie, and there are many, have vehemently attacked the film (with many not even having seen the flick). There are accusations of historical revisionism and distortion of the historical record of the Marcos rule and dictatorship — or just simply plain lies, mostly coming from the leftist groups and the political center launching the ML@50 Movement. The stated purpose of this group's campaign is "...encouraging a wider awareness of that historical chapter through arts and culture. Thus, the organizers are planning, among other activities, festivals, exhibits and workshops about martial law"

Come on! It's just a frigging B-class movie. Produce your own!

The cast

A tale told from the point of view of the Malacañang staff (mostly maids/kasambahay), Imee — though the screenwriter-director and actors have to go through the pain of explaining what could have been great events — the last 72 hours during the EDSA People Power Revolution presaging the family's exile — from their personal point of view.

The budget for this film must really be astronomical. For one, big names have been recruited. Cesar Montano, the Philippine version of an "A lister" portrayed Apo Ferdie. But with a second-rate rambling dialogue it was almost impossible for a really good actor to be one. Statuesque Ruffa Gutierrez, a beautiful model took on the role of Imelda, who in real life was a force to reckon with — larger than life — who shared the political center stage with the Apo. Alas, their only similarities were their height and hairdo. Ruffa's acting was wooden, more fit for runway modeling. She did not do Imelda justice.

The rest of the cast, Ella Cruz as Irene, Diego Loyzaga as Bongbong, and the other minor roles had to follow an inane script with acting reflective of the Filipino genre of loud and runaway dialogues interspersed with sobbing, crying and hysterics. Unable to use the tools of good acting ... nuances, period of silences, intermittent pausing for effect; instead, in some instances, it turned into a deadly shouting match. Filipino actors have to show tears as their concept of "good acting. Ang galing sa hiyawan, sigawan at iyakan ... acting talaga."

Even the stab at comic relief by the maids deteriorated into slapstick, popular with the "masa," which garnered the greatest applause from the audience — at least at the Gaisano Theater in Davao.

But the portrayal of Bongbong in the film is unconscionable. He appeared as the bumbling younger brother donning one costume the whole 72 hours, military fatigues — and assigned one dramatic scene with the Apo, that Ambeth Ocampo described as "...a whimpering child of a man desperate for his father's attention and approval..." Even with literary license — the role was most degrading — the future president should not have been depicted this way. Fiction or not, what would Liza say of the whole film?

And the actress who hogged the film was Christine Reyes as Imee whom Ambeth Ocampo described "...as a pouting, petulant, entitled b*tch in the opening scene who degenerated into a shrill, hysterical banshee for most of the film."

I've met the senator a few times and she struck me as smart, beautiful, possessed of an electric personality who in my opinion is the Marcos who is closer to the mold of the Apo himself — the female Ferdinand.

The film as fiction

To be kind and fair, I view her opus "Maid in Malacañang" as a sort of a work of art; overwhelming the scriptwriter-director who may have been too lazy perhaps to produce a documentary film, unable to check his facts and too incompetent to produce a straight fiction. I don't think he went out of his way to peddle lies as truth — unless her pecuniary incentives were just too much. (My brother Cyril, a director-producer and sister Zelmar, a screenwriter, could have done a more professional job.) MnM could be an attempt to be presented as a political satire, a poor one — encapsulated by that mahjong scene with the nuns. I particularly enjoyed that controversial episode — fictitious at best — but what the hell! I love to play mahjong myself!

Read 396 times Last modified on Friday, 04 November 2022 17:33
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