A revealing documentary about the Philippines' darkest era
Things are still not-so-great here in the Philippines. It’s disheartening to have one despot as president after another. In the last newsletter, one of you rightfully suggested we recommend the brilliant and revealing documentary The Kingmaker, so if you haven’t seen it yet, I strongly urge you to do so.
It’s currently streaming on Showtime, but if you’re from the Philippines, the director has made it free to watch on YouTube—such is the desperate state of disinformation in the country. A resourceful netizen also compiled a list of where to watch Martial Law-era movies and documentaries, which you can check out if you’re interested in learning more about the absolute hell Ferdinand Marcos put my country through.
I hope things are better where you are.
As always, have a safe and restful weekend!
OUR TOP TV SHOW OF THE WEEK
The 7 Lives of Lea
New on Netflix 🍅 rating: —
If Freaky Friday (switched bodies), Kimi No Nawa (switched gender bodies), and Back to the Future (unexpected time travel) were somehow rolled into one, then blanketed in layers of crime and mystery, the hybrid result would be this new French miniseries from Netflix. The 7 Lives of Lea is a fun mishmash of a show that follows 17-year-old Lea as she wakes up to a different body each day.
The catch is that Lea has a connection with these bodies from the past. With every new episode and body inhabited, she gets closer to the truth of an unsolved case, as well as to the truth of who she is and wants to be. It’s a coming-of-age story at its core, elevated by an impressive swirl of different genres.
OUR TOP MOVIE OF THE WEEK
Like a Rolling Stone: The Life & Times of Ben Fong-Torres
On Netflix 🍅 rating: 100%
When I first saw Almost Famous, like any budding writer I wanted to be child prodigy William Miller. But with every rewatch, I grew curious about William’s editor Ben Fong-Torres, a real figure in the real world (as real as Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Lester Bangs).
The Rolling Stone journalist had very little screentime, of course, existing only to remind William of his nearing deadline. But what mainly caught my attention was his unique name. It’s an unspoken rule that any Asian with a Hispanic last name must surely be Filipino, and as it turns out, Ben Fong-Torres’ father had to pose as one to circumvent the (violent and racist) Chinese Exclusion Act, which prohibited Chinese people from immigrating to the US.
Like a Rolling Stone gives us a glimpse into Ben’s eventful life, from enduring the hardships of second-gen immigration to thriving not just as one of the US’ best Asian-American journalists, but as one of the country’s best writers, period. The documentary also includes snippets and interviews with multiple icons attesting to Ben’s skill and camaraderie, including The Doors, Elton John, and Steve Martin.
TOP PICKS OUTSIDE OF NETFLIX AND AMAZON PRIME
On Showtime 🍅 rating: 97%
There is no shortage of resources—be it books, films, articles, or interviews—about the atrocities Ferdinand Marcos unleashed on the Philippines. And yet the late dictator’s son is back in power, “winning” the latest presidential elections in a frightening turn.
The Kingmaker exposes how this came to be, with a focus on the titular kingmaker herself, Imelda Marcos. It’s chilling how much of Imelda’s stated goals in this documentary have come true. Her husband was given a hero’s burial in 2016 (I remember our college playing burial church bells and walking out with the rest of my classmates in protest when this happened). And now her son is our president.
History repeats itself, and director Lauren Greenfield (The Queen of Versailles) skillfully and delicately captures the delusion, irony, and blatant corruption of a family dead set on owning a country, as if it were another luxury to purchase (or rather, pocket).
TOP PICKS OUTSIDE OF NETFLIX AND AMAZON PRIME
On Apple TV+ 🍅 rating: 86%
Apple is on a roll: almost every new release from the streamer comes highly recommended in this newsletter. Shining Girls is no exception, with the always brilliant Elisabeth Moss bringing her A-game in this eight-part crime thriller.
It tells the story of Kirby Mazrachi (Moss), a once-aspiring reporter who is so shaken by an assault that her perception of time and reality shifts into an unrecognizable mess. Amelia Harvey of Frame Rated calls it “a confident drama with a satisfying pay-off, plus a powerful metaphor for trauma and women not being taken seriously in the aftermath of a crime.”
That’s all for this week. This edition of the newsletter will be back on Friday, May 20.