I'm not an investigative journalist. I am not a historian. I am a filmmaker," said Ramona Diaz, director of the documentary Imelda, to The Sun's Stephanie Shapiro last summer. But Diaz's movie proves that filmmakers who stay true to their subjects can't help also being journalists and historians - and maybe shrinks and novelists, too.
Imelda portrays Imelda Marcos, the former first lady of the Philippines, not merely as a world-class shoe collector, but as a global figure comparable to Jackie Kennedy and Evita Peron, with a network of mystical beliefs that go far beyond Nancy Reagan's faith in astrology.
Imelda is "a character study," Diaz told Shapiro, and in this filmmaker's hands, Marcos is a remarkable character. She helped her husband, Ferdinand, reach the presidency and then, improbably, increased her own popular support as he moved from democrat to dictator. Imelda sees herself as an inspiration to her people: the high priestess of "beauty," or, in her words, "love made real." She puts into flossy words and inscrutable diagrams her own risible philosophy of an aesthetic order that underlies human life and society.
Diaz, a Baltimore resident who grew up in the Philippines but left at age 17 to study film at Emerson College in Boston, is the perfect guide to the labyrinth of Imelda's psyche and the whole Marcos regime. As a woman raised in a swank Manila neighborhood and schooled in a convent, Diaz felt a personal need to investigate her birth country's widespread poverty as she began to tackle Filipino subjects in her moviemaking. She never permits us to forget that while Imelda was espousing the need for grace and culture, her husband was rounding up and torturing political opponents.
Diaz reminds us that even established democracies can be prone to heroine-worship when a first lady embodies a new kind of patriotic allure, makes an international fashion splash and raises attractive children in the public eye. Of course, Diaz also provides moments of appalling and divine absurdity - such as ever-tan George Hamilton warbling, "I Can't Give You Anything But Love (Imelda)."
Imelda played last spring at the Maryland Film Festival and had a brief pre-Christmas run at the Charles. It will be shown again at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Maryland Institute College of Art's Brown Center, 1301 Mount Royal Ave. Diaz will attend and answer questions. Tickets are $10. Call 410-752-8083 or visit www.mdfilmfest.com.
Stooges at Charles
The Charles hosts The Three Stooges 70th Annivoisary Blowout, a full-length program of their choicest shorts, tomorrow at noon (admission $6), Monday at 7 p.m. and Thursday at 9 p.m. (admission for evening shows: $8). It kicks off with Men in Black, a satire of the Pulitzer Prize-winning hospital drama Men in White, starring the Stooges as doctors who graduated with "the highest temperatures in their class." (It was their only Oscar-nominated short.) In Violent Is the Word for Curly (the title riffs on the hit feature Valiant Is the Word for Carrie), the boys are mistaken for professors and teach a class with the song "Swinging the Alphabet."
Micro-phonies features Curly in drag lip-synching the seasonally apt, "I hear the voice of spring is in the air." In the Sweet Pie and Pie showcases the Stooges' first epic pie fight (35 pies thrown). An Ache in Every Stake centers on the challenge of delivering ice before it melts and highlights ice-tong warfare. Brideless Groom contains a scene with a table vise that Stooges chronicler Michael Fleming compares to a torture in Martin Scorsese's Casino, and You Nazty Spy! burlesques Hitler with Moe as a dictator who proclaims, "We will extend two helping hands, and help ourselves to our neighbors."
Call 410-727-FILM or visit www.thecharles.com.
Silents at the Patterson
Sure, your film history class may have shown you Melies' A Trip to the Moon (1902), with its cannon-fired space capsule. But did you ever see the witch kidnap the princess in Melies' The Kingdom of the Fairies (1903), or watch Winsor McCay destroy the fourth wall in one of the first animated shorts, Gertie the Dinosaur (1914), drawing a friendly brontosaurus type and climbing onto her back? And what about Marcel Duchamp's Anemic Cinema (1925), with its Dada messages written on spiraling disks? You can catch all of them at one sitting, with live music from Liz Downing and Michael Willis of Radiant Pig, Wednesday at the Orpheum Silent Sound series at Creative Alliance.
The screening will be at the restored Patterson Theatre, 3134 Eastern Ave. Tickets: $10, with free popcorn for members.
Call 410-276-1651 or go to www.creativealliance.org.