06 May 2007

The Milagro Beanfield War and Other Tales of Northern New Mexico

In my last post I mentioned the Milagro Beanfield War. A 1988 film from Robert Redford based on the book by John Nichols.

It tells the tale of a fictional town in northern New Mexico called Milagro [actually Truchas, NM]. Northern New Mexico is famous for its deep cultural and spiritual center. Lots of folklore and history up in that area. From the founding of Santa Fe to Los Alamos Laboratories to spiritual centers for both the Sikh's and Scientology.

Northern New Mexico is captured beautifully in Milagro Beanfield War. Many of the shots I'm sure were used with little filtering...it is just dang beautiful up there. This movie tells the story of Joe Mondragon a poor beanfarmer that funnels state water on to his land, upsetting both the state and the 'big land developer' who wants to open a resort which would displace many of the townspeople.

Some of the townsfolk want to sell out others are tied to the land by their families history. The 'war' is both literal as the townsfolk gather together to take on the developer and a metaphor for the struggle to stay close to your culture.

It's un-even in some spots...most notably in the dialects from some of the actors. Sonia Braga is from Brazil, Ruben Blades from Panama and even the main actor Chick Vanera, is Italian and from New York. His basic 'mucho gracias' is reaaaal bad...hahahaha.

Where the film hits a home run is in the the local characters... the woman that throws rocks at passers by....Old Man Amarante and his pig...and even the town ghost, who when Christopher Walkins character drives into town mutters..."here comes the boogey-man".

Daniel Stern is great at the college student in town to study local culture and ends up befriending the zany Amarante who tells him to put his shoes in a bag at night so scorpions won't crawl into them or to make sure that when using the outhouse his balls dont hit the toilet seat because there might be black windows.....

Old Man Amarante is definately the most likable character. When he first gets a visit from the town ghost he tells the ghost, "I'm not ready to go..." and the ghost replies, "I'm not here for you, it's your town that's dying."

A charming and likeable tale. The Sundance Channel is running it this month so keep an eye out for it. In the future I will mention other films that feature New Mexico and its culture.

I mention Northern New Mexico because of its richness in Hispanic, Native American and European culture and folklore.

One in particular is the Taos Hum. The 'hum' is a generic name for a series of phenomena involving a persistent and invasive low-frequency hum not audible to all people. The Hum is most often described as sounding somewhat like a distant idling diesel engine and is difficult to detect with microphones. It's source and nature is a mystery.

Also recommended:

This is my favorite film of all time and is very similar to Milagro Beanfield War. In this one a big oil company wants to buy this Scottish bay to build a refinery. The price is to include the small town on the bay. Knox Oil and Gas sends this stuffy suit played by Peter Reigert to try and buy the property only he ends up falling in love with the place and the people yet...the people of the town already know what is going down and are eager to sell. It's full of great unknown actors with lots of great 'lines'. A killer soundtrack by Mark Knofphler and where as Milagro has a ghost, Local Hero has a.....mermaid??? You'll have to check it out for yourself. You won't be disappointed .

Also, if you are looking for a good book to read this summer:

An excellent coming of age tale from Northern New Mexico. Antonio is a young boy in the 40's trying to become a young man. Tragedy and mystery surround him, form him, shape him but none is stronger then the influence of Ultima, the local curandera [witch/healer] who shows Antonio about life and nature. The supernatural element is creepy as Ultima takes on three local witches and Antonio's uncle becomes posessed. It's a great summer read and is available at the big name bookstores.

I'm out.

www.amasci.com/hum [The Taos Hum]

www.rense.com/general75/dulcde.htm [Dulce NM Mysteries]

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