The Rose of Manila

Directed by Alex Westfall

What is love when made real? Beauty. Archival footage and reenactment evoke a formative moment in the life of young Imelda Marcos, the infamous wife of Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

The Imelda we know is notorious for her lavish embezzlement of public funds, her friendships with global autocrats, and her unwavering refusal to recognize the human rights violations committed under her rule. The Imelda in this film, however, doesn’t yet own thousands of pairs of shoes. Rather, this narrative, based on actual events, takes place a mere month before Ferdinand swept her into the political sphere. With a desire for fame and power, Imelda travels from her Tacloban homestead to compete in the 1953 Miss Manila pageant. When things don’t go her way, she takes it into her own hands to get what she wants.

History unravels as a cult of personality forms: Can a seemingly small-scale ego boost have a ripple effect on the destiny of a nation? Here, life, time, and history are rendered elliptical. While individuals fail public life and positions of power, perhaps the reverse is also true.

Directed by Alex Westfall
Produced by Miguel Jimenez, Enzo Razon, and Alex Westfall
Written by Alex Westfall

About the filmmaker: Alex Westfall is a visual artist interested in constructing inner worlds, interrogating cultural histories, and the relation between dreaming and memory. She graduated from Brown University in 2020 with a BA in Modern Culture & Media and is an alumna of the Telluride Film Festival Student Symposium.

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