The Milagro Beanfield War


1h 58m 1988

Brief Synopsis

Impoverished farmers in New Mexico fight off land-grabbing developers.

Film Details

Also Known As
Milagro, Milagro Beanfield War, lugar llamado milagro, Un
MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Drama
Release Date
1988
Production Company
William F Ferson
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures
Location
Espanola, New Mexico, USA; Los Alamos, New Mexico, USA; Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA; Truchas, New Mexico, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 58m

Synopsis

A New Mexican town rallies behind a farmer who unintentionally irrigates his land with the water supply of a rich entrepreneur.

Crew

Julie Adams

Dialogue Coach

Dede Allen

Editor

Joe Aubel

Art Director

Craig B Ayers

Greensman

Roy Barnes

Set Designer

Cassandra Barrere

Script Supervisor

Michael Barrere

Grip

Donah Bassett

Negative Cutting

Eric Beason

Associate Editor

Sarah Black

Production Consultant

Else Blangsted

Music Editor

Steve Boyd

Transportation Captain

Billy Brashier

Projectionist

Melissa Bretherton

Assistant Editor

Reynaldo Cantu

Location Assistant

Joseph Caramico

Electrician

Charles Carlsen

Other

William Carruth

Adr Editor

Lucy Cavallo

Casting Associate

Crew Chamberlain

Boom Operator

Lucy Coldsnow-smith

Foley Editor

Jack Couffer

Director Of Photography

Jim Day

Other

Michael Dellheim

Liaison

Felito Denavaraez

Production Assistant

Mary Lou Devlin

Other

Shirley Dolle

Hair

Jim Ealy

Other

Moctesuma Esparza

Producer

Chris Espeset

Grip

William F Ferson

Cable Operator

Gregg Fienberg

Production Coordinator

Gordon K Fletcher

Foreman

Nancy Foy

Casting

Nancy Frazen

Associate Editor

Stanley Frazen

Editing

Trisha B Gallaher

Property Master

Rodney Gallegos

Production Assistant

David Glazer

Props

Anthony Goldschmidt

Main Title Design

Antoinette Gordon

Set Designer

Celeste Gose

Production Assistant

Robbie Greenberg

Director Of Photography

Dave Grusin

Music

Conrad W. Hall

Assistant Camera Operator

George Hanson

Other

Barbara Harris

Casting

Brian P Hauck

Electrician

James Hegedus

Illustrator

James Hegedus

Art Department

Michael Helfand

Production Coordinator

Gary J Hendler

Executive Producer

Beccie Hilliard

Accounting Assistant

Shelly Rae Hinton

Adr Editor

Tom Hoerber

Makeup

Dale Holmen

Electrician

Mary Ann Holt

Wardrobe

Spike Hooper

Sound Editor

David Horton

Sound Editor

Matthew Iadarola

Sound

Sally Jackson

Casting

Peter Jamison

Consultant

Daniel S. Jimenez

Dolly Grip

Keith A Jones

Production Assistant

Tom Joslin

Casting Associate

Rick Kahana

Stunts

Marilyn Keach

Production Assistant

Nikita Knatz

Art Department

David A Koeppel

Assistant Editor

Leon Lebow

Wrangler

Kenny Lee

Animal Trainer

Gary Liddiard

Makeup

Frederic Lopez

Props

Bill Maldonado

Construction Coordinator

Mary Jo Markey

Apprentice

Elliot Marks

Photography

Willie O Martinez

Production

Mel Maxwell

Gaffer

James J Mccarthy

Production Accountant

Timothy P Mcdonald

Electrician

Dick Mckenzie

Set Designer

Jack Mclean

Electrician

Sammye Meadows

Production Assistant

Joe Mendoza

Other

Carla Meyer

Dialogue Coach

Jim Miller

Editor

Robbi Miller

Assistant

Michael Minkler

Sound

Steven R. Molen

Transportation Coordinator

Leonard Monfredo

Other

Charles Mulvehill

Coproducer

Charles Myers

Assistant Director

John Nichols

Source Material (From Novel)

John Nichols

Screenplay

Kim Nolan

Sound Editor

Patrick R Norris

Costumes

David P O'brien

Grip

Kathy O'rear

Costumes

David Ochoa

Assistant

Kaaren F Ochoa

Assistant Director

Ralph Ortega

Wrangler

Richard L Oswald

Sound Editor

Tony Paolone

Other

James Parks

Production Consultant

Angel Perez

Other

Donnette Perkins

Production Assistant

Victoria Plata

Casting

Bernie Pollack

Costume Designer

Tom Ramsey

Key Grip

Karen Rasch

Assistant Editor

Robert Redford

Producer

Mike Reedy

Special Effects Assistant

Josh Rich

Grip

Billy Don Riley

Craft Service

Angel Romero

Music

Kay Rose

Sound Editor

Thomas Roysden

Set Decorator

Paul Russell

Special Effects Assistant

Teri R Salazar

Wardrobe Assistant

Nick Scarano

Costumes

Lauren Schaffer

Assistant Editor

Jack Schrader

Foley Editor

Ellen Segal

Music Editor

Ralph Segura

Assistant

Michael Selph

Assistant Camera Operator

Vince Sembera

Tailor

Chuck Sharp

Electrician

Chester Slomka

Sound Editor

Phil Smith

Animal Trainer

Tom Snyder

Assistant Director

Tim Staubs

Dolly Grip

Thomas Thanangadan

Production Assistant

Mike Thomas

Assistant Camera Operator

John Toll

Camera Operator

Pablo Valdez

Production

David S. Ward

Screenplay

Tom Ward

Special Effects

Jessica Tice Warner

Other

Paul Warschilka

Sound Editor

James E Webb

Sound

Brent White

Apprentice

Jim Wilkey

Stunts

David Wisnievitz

Unit Production Manager

Butch Wolf

Foley Editor

Film Details

Also Known As
Milagro, Milagro Beanfield War, lugar llamado milagro, Un
MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Drama
Release Date
1988
Production Company
William F Ferson
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures
Location
Espanola, New Mexico, USA; Los Alamos, New Mexico, USA; Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA; Truchas, New Mexico, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 58m

Award Wins

Best Score

1988

Articles

The Milagro Beanfield War


The Milagro Beanfield War (1988) begins with one angel dancing out of a sunrise and two angels dancing into a sunset. Three, if you count Robert Redford, who produced and directed it and, most importantly, adroitly balanced its tricky elements to fashion it into a endearing – and enduring -- populist fable. Nobody at the time thought to refer to Redford's dip into contemporary folklore, magic realism, quirky characters and simpatico rapport with pre-Anglo culture as avant-garde. Perhaps more to the point was that critics and the public at the time were a bit derriere-garde in their grasp of how a flattened indigenous subculture, instead of being dispossessed and dispersed once and for all, regenerates itself in a beanfield, replenished by the natural world, defeating its would-be despoilers. Although guns are drawn, and in a few instances actually fired, this isn't a body-count film. It's a celebration of activism raised to self-empowerment.

In today's climate of dwindling resources and increasing environmental awareness, it's not insignificantly a film about water rights, about a community finding itself with a few assists from nature, whether in the form of a beanfield maintained by a stubborn holdout (Chick Vennera) against developers' bulldozers, or a timely gust of wind that circulates sequestered copies of a muckraking newspaper whose entire press run is about to be put to the torch. As a pushy developer (Richard Bradford), pockets stuffed with compliant pols as much as with cash, prepares to turn a spacious but mostly parched corner of northern New Mexico into what he boasts will be the state's largest leisure time development, it's a question of whose water is it anyway? And beyond that, will it just be another chapter in the long history of exploitation of Hispanica by America?

Here's where those angels come in. The Milagro Beanfield War establishes a tone of buoyant magic realism as an old sombrero-wearing campesino (Robert Carricart) dances out of the night in slo-mo, concertina in hand, through the dawn and into a one-room house for his daily pre-breakfast dialogue with its -- and the town's -- oldest inhabitant, Amarante (Carlos Riquelme). Amarante is the conduit for the culture and the ancient beliefs that have sustained that culture through centuries of impoverishment, or would, if the present generation stayed linked to it, drawing upon it for strength. Sometimes it needs to withstand the well-meant efforts of its friends. These range from John Heard's battle-weary social activist, who'd retire from the fray if Sonia Braga's local tempesta would let him, to Daniel Stern's visiting sociologist from NYU, adding his good-natured bungling to the mix.

But mostly it's Bradford's goons, more inherently savage than their boss, who are prepared to bring lethal force to bear. It's not that they're devoted to the proposed golf course whose creation will result in the bulldozing of the small-fry farmer's beanfield; they're mostly just bullies who get off on throwing their weight around, especially when they feel they've been sanctioned by bought legislators. The exception is Christopher Walken's Kyril Montana, a dirty tricks specialist from the state capital, recycling the bounty hunter he played in Heaven's Gate (1980) and blending it with the kind of otherworldly psychosis he has made so uniquely his own. Can an old man with an old Colt .45 Peacemaker, loaded with bullets he traded food stamps to get, possibly be a match for him? For that matter, what about Vennera's farmer, Joe Mondragon, who out of desperation opens the developer's turned-off water tap that has all Joe's people dying from thirst? They're such Davids and the Goliaths are such Goliaths that you aren't inclined to begrudge them a little supernatural help. The developers have a lot of money, law and bulldozers. The locals have a little mojo, a lot of passivity connected to self-preservation, and even more waffling and squabbling among themselves.

Yet it's a source of strength that the script fashioned from John Nichols' 1974 novel doesn't lean too hard on the magic, even as it sensitively and miraculously taps into the intangible qualities of the parched land surrounded by magnificent purple mountains (it was filmed in Truchas, NM, with a kind of Southwest authenticity no California locale could give it). Everything that happens is rooted in the real world, nothing defies the laws of physics. The film is quasi-magical in its mood, but mysticism is never unduly pressed into service. And the finished product reflects the respect Redford obviously brought to the land and its people. They're activists only reluctantly, but they're not militant, much less warlike. They head into the clash with dread, knowing that however morally right they may be, they're on the wrong side of the legal system.

Redford's biggest genuflection to the culture comes in his decision to tell the story from their perspective. It doesn't pretend to be anything but that of a simpatico outsider. His surrogate – like novelist Nichols' – is to be found in Heard's Anglo civil rights lawyer turned small town newspaper publisher and commercial printer. The matter-of-fact diversity of the local culture is reflected in Redford's casting of Panamanian Ruben Blades as the sheriff sanely and knowledgably trying to keep a lid on things, Brazilian Sonia Braga as the local firebrand, Tex-Mex Freddy Fender as the let's-just-get-along mayor, and the beguiling Mexican film veteran, Riquelme, making his Hollywood debut here at 75.

The intimate scale of the particulars of these people who belong to the land as much as the land belongs to them sits well against the spacious canopies of sky. It's part of the charm of this ensemble piece whose amiability is more apparent than its complex weave. Redford, alluding to its magic realism and extravagant arcs of belief, has compared it to the writing of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The filmic comparison that most readily springs to mind is the postwar Italian wretched masses' communal ascension to a better life in Vittorio De Sica's even more unknown and undeservedly under-appreciated Miracle in Milan (1951). The not-so-secret ingredient in Redford's enchilada-flavored peasant uprising? Something about governing without the consent of the governed, especially the economically governed.

Producers: Moctesuma Esparza, Robert Redford
Director: Robert Redford
Screenplay: David Ward; John Nichols (screenplay and novel)
Cinematography: Robbie Greenberg
Art Direction: Brandy Alexander, Joe Aubel, Pamela Marcotte
Music: Dave Grusin
Film Editing: Dede Allen, Jim Miller
Cast: Ruben Blades (Sheriff Bernabe Montoya), Richard Bradford (Ladd Devine), Sonia Braga (Ruby Archuleta), Julie Carmen (Nancy Mondragon), James Gammon (Horsethief Shorty), Melanie Griffith (Flossie Devine), John Heard (Charlie Bloom), Carlos Riquelme (Amarante Cordova), Daniel Stern (Herbie Platt), Chick Vennera (Joe Mondragon), Christopher Walken (Kyril Montana), Freddy Fender (Mayor Sammy Cantu), Tony Genaro (Nick Rael), Jerry Hardin (Emerson Capps), Ronald G. Joseph (Jerry G), Mario Arrambide (Carl).
C-118m. Letterboxed. Closed Captioning.

by Jay Carr
The Milagro Beanfield War

The Milagro Beanfield War

The Milagro Beanfield War (1988) begins with one angel dancing out of a sunrise and two angels dancing into a sunset. Three, if you count Robert Redford, who produced and directed it and, most importantly, adroitly balanced its tricky elements to fashion it into a endearing – and enduring -- populist fable. Nobody at the time thought to refer to Redford's dip into contemporary folklore, magic realism, quirky characters and simpatico rapport with pre-Anglo culture as avant-garde. Perhaps more to the point was that critics and the public at the time were a bit derriere-garde in their grasp of how a flattened indigenous subculture, instead of being dispossessed and dispersed once and for all, regenerates itself in a beanfield, replenished by the natural world, defeating its would-be despoilers. Although guns are drawn, and in a few instances actually fired, this isn't a body-count film. It's a celebration of activism raised to self-empowerment. In today's climate of dwindling resources and increasing environmental awareness, it's not insignificantly a film about water rights, about a community finding itself with a few assists from nature, whether in the form of a beanfield maintained by a stubborn holdout (Chick Vennera) against developers' bulldozers, or a timely gust of wind that circulates sequestered copies of a muckraking newspaper whose entire press run is about to be put to the torch. As a pushy developer (Richard Bradford), pockets stuffed with compliant pols as much as with cash, prepares to turn a spacious but mostly parched corner of northern New Mexico into what he boasts will be the state's largest leisure time development, it's a question of whose water is it anyway? And beyond that, will it just be another chapter in the long history of exploitation of Hispanica by America? Here's where those angels come in. The Milagro Beanfield War establishes a tone of buoyant magic realism as an old sombrero-wearing campesino (Robert Carricart) dances out of the night in slo-mo, concertina in hand, through the dawn and into a one-room house for his daily pre-breakfast dialogue with its -- and the town's -- oldest inhabitant, Amarante (Carlos Riquelme). Amarante is the conduit for the culture and the ancient beliefs that have sustained that culture through centuries of impoverishment, or would, if the present generation stayed linked to it, drawing upon it for strength. Sometimes it needs to withstand the well-meant efforts of its friends. These range from John Heard's battle-weary social activist, who'd retire from the fray if Sonia Braga's local tempesta would let him, to Daniel Stern's visiting sociologist from NYU, adding his good-natured bungling to the mix. But mostly it's Bradford's goons, more inherently savage than their boss, who are prepared to bring lethal force to bear. It's not that they're devoted to the proposed golf course whose creation will result in the bulldozing of the small-fry farmer's beanfield; they're mostly just bullies who get off on throwing their weight around, especially when they feel they've been sanctioned by bought legislators. The exception is Christopher Walken's Kyril Montana, a dirty tricks specialist from the state capital, recycling the bounty hunter he played in Heaven's Gate (1980) and blending it with the kind of otherworldly psychosis he has made so uniquely his own. Can an old man with an old Colt .45 Peacemaker, loaded with bullets he traded food stamps to get, possibly be a match for him? For that matter, what about Vennera's farmer, Joe Mondragon, who out of desperation opens the developer's turned-off water tap that has all Joe's people dying from thirst? They're such Davids and the Goliaths are such Goliaths that you aren't inclined to begrudge them a little supernatural help. The developers have a lot of money, law and bulldozers. The locals have a little mojo, a lot of passivity connected to self-preservation, and even more waffling and squabbling among themselves. Yet it's a source of strength that the script fashioned from John Nichols' 1974 novel doesn't lean too hard on the magic, even as it sensitively and miraculously taps into the intangible qualities of the parched land surrounded by magnificent purple mountains (it was filmed in Truchas, NM, with a kind of Southwest authenticity no California locale could give it). Everything that happens is rooted in the real world, nothing defies the laws of physics. The film is quasi-magical in its mood, but mysticism is never unduly pressed into service. And the finished product reflects the respect Redford obviously brought to the land and its people. They're activists only reluctantly, but they're not militant, much less warlike. They head into the clash with dread, knowing that however morally right they may be, they're on the wrong side of the legal system. Redford's biggest genuflection to the culture comes in his decision to tell the story from their perspective. It doesn't pretend to be anything but that of a simpatico outsider. His surrogate – like novelist Nichols' – is to be found in Heard's Anglo civil rights lawyer turned small town newspaper publisher and commercial printer. The matter-of-fact diversity of the local culture is reflected in Redford's casting of Panamanian Ruben Blades as the sheriff sanely and knowledgably trying to keep a lid on things, Brazilian Sonia Braga as the local firebrand, Tex-Mex Freddy Fender as the let's-just-get-along mayor, and the beguiling Mexican film veteran, Riquelme, making his Hollywood debut here at 75. The intimate scale of the particulars of these people who belong to the land as much as the land belongs to them sits well against the spacious canopies of sky. It's part of the charm of this ensemble piece whose amiability is more apparent than its complex weave. Redford, alluding to its magic realism and extravagant arcs of belief, has compared it to the writing of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The filmic comparison that most readily springs to mind is the postwar Italian wretched masses' communal ascension to a better life in Vittorio De Sica's even more unknown and undeservedly under-appreciated Miracle in Milan (1951). The not-so-secret ingredient in Redford's enchilada-flavored peasant uprising? Something about governing without the consent of the governed, especially the economically governed. Producers: Moctesuma Esparza, Robert Redford Director: Robert Redford Screenplay: David Ward; John Nichols (screenplay and novel) Cinematography: Robbie Greenberg Art Direction: Brandy Alexander, Joe Aubel, Pamela Marcotte Music: Dave Grusin Film Editing: Dede Allen, Jim Miller Cast: Ruben Blades (Sheriff Bernabe Montoya), Richard Bradford (Ladd Devine), Sonia Braga (Ruby Archuleta), Julie Carmen (Nancy Mondragon), James Gammon (Horsethief Shorty), Melanie Griffith (Flossie Devine), John Heard (Charlie Bloom), Carlos Riquelme (Amarante Cordova), Daniel Stern (Herbie Platt), Chick Vennera (Joe Mondragon), Christopher Walken (Kyril Montana), Freddy Fender (Mayor Sammy Cantu), Tony Genaro (Nick Rael), Jerry Hardin (Emerson Capps), Ronald G. Joseph (Jerry G), Mario Arrambide (Carl). C-118m. Letterboxed. Closed Captioning. by Jay Carr

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Spring March 18, 1988

Released in United States on Video September 15, 1988

Released in United States 1988

Shown at Munich Film Festival June 25-July 3, 1988.

Shown at Birmingham Film & Television Festival September-October 1988.

Completed shooting November 24, 1986.

Began shooting August 6, 1986.

Spanish language version available.

Released in United States Spring March 18, 1988

Released in United States on Video September 15, 1988

Released in United States 1988 (Shown at Munich Film Festival June 25-July 3, 1988.)

Released in United States 1988 (Shown at Birmingham Film & Television Festival September-October 1988.)