by David C. Terr
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Title: The Milagro Beanfield War
Director: Robert Redford
Starring: Christopher Walken, Ruben Blades, Julie Carmen, Chick Vennera, Sonia Braga, John Heard
Release Date: Mar. 18, 1988
Running Time: 117 min
Genres: Comedy, Fantasy, Drama
The Milagro Beanfield War is an unusual film directed by Robert Redford concerning the plight of the residents of a Southwestern village threatened to be exploited by big business. The movie is made in the Latin American style of Magical Realism, involving spiritual influences and miracles. The story is very inspiring and thought-provoking and the acting is very good, especially Christopher Walken's role as a very scary federal agent.
The Milagro Beanfield War takes place in the fictional village of Milagro, New Mexico, home to about 500 Hispanics whose traditional way of life is being threatened by big business. Trouble begins when a young unemployed family man named Joe Mondragon (Vennera) begins to irrigate his father's dried-out beanfield by diverting water from an irrigation ditch, in violation of water use laws set up to favor the rich developers who threaten to take over the community. The Hispanic community, backed up by activist Ruby Archuleta (Braga) and lawyer/newspaper editor Charlie Bloom (Heard), end up fighting the developers over their livelihood.
I think this film makes a good case for preserving small communities with long-standing traditions against the interests of big business. The magical symbolism is used as a metaphor for what the community can do to protect itself.