IMELDA Marcos and her shoes; what a joke, right? So much so that the former First Lady of the Philippines is referenced in many a story about a woman and her shoe buying habits, as when a certain former Lord Provost was dubbed “the Imelda Marcos of Glasgow”.

Lauren Greenfield’s blistering documentary shows the woman herself, and her ambitions for her family, are a long way from being funny.

Greenfield’s film begins with the widow Marcos travelling the streets of Manila in her chauffeur driven car. The vehicle stops at a traffic light, a gaggle of street children approach and she hands out notes, always careful not to touch the youngsters’ hands. Marcos always travels with a handbag full of cash, Lady Bountiful in action. She bemoans the state of the country today. “This was a little paradise.”

From archive footage we see how Ferdinand Marcos and his wife were initially feted. Friends to the US and seen as a bulwark against communism, the former Miss Philippines travelled the world, presenting herself as a peacemaker. Mao, she said, credited her with ending the Cold War.

In reality they were buying anything they liked, from property in the US to jewels from Paris and animals from Africa (for which she had an island cleared of people).

Greenfield sets this out without comment, leaving that to the talking heads she has assembled, including torture victims.

The woman herself flits in and out of the narrative, being interviewed by Greenfield. It is what she does, as much as what she says, that sums her up. She passes by a table full of photographs. Knocking some over, she makes no effort to fix the display, leaving the task to one of the many servants never far from her side.

In Imelda’s world, mess is for other people to worry about.

Greenfield is hitherto best known forher 2012 documentary The Queen of Versailles, the tale of a wealthy estate agent and his beauty queen wife and their efforts to build a palatial home in Orlando just as the economy nosedives.

While that was a political film with a small P, The Kingmaker is on a tougher level entirely. The reason why Greenfield, and by extension the audience, find it hard to look away from Marcos is not simply because of her past deeds but the way she is trying to shape the future by setting up her son for a run at the presidency, currently in the hands of the equally nightmarish Rodrigo Duterte.

This is documentary as horror story, all the more powerful for its understated nature. Unmissable.

Glasgow Film Theatre and Filmhouse, Edinburgh, December 13-19