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Another War Over The 'Beanfield'

May 31, 1987|Pat H. Broeske

Producer Moctezuma Esparza--a longtime Latino activist who led student demonstrations in the '60s--has come under fire along with co-producer/director Robert Redford for allegedly infusing "The Milagro Beanfield War" with stereotypical Latino characters and cultural inaccuracies.

The movie is a seriocomic fable about New Mexican farmers standing up to developers over water rights. It's due for release late this year.

The Latino firebrand this time is Leo Guerra, president of the Film and Television Minorities Committee and a member of both Nosotros and the Hispanic Academy of Media Arts and Sciences. Guerra worked as an assistant film editor on "Milagro" during postproduction early this year at Redford's Sundance Institute in Utah.

He's claiming that the film will demean the Latino image with unbelievable and offensive scenes, dialogue and characterizations, including the mythical Angel, a ghost-like figure with sombrero, peasant costume and rotting teeth ("The stereotypical Mexican," according to Guerra).

And Guerra's charging that his early dismissal from "Milagro"--shortly after he'd been asked to work through the film's completion, he claims--came because of his protests, some of them delivered to Redford personally.

Chuck Mulvehill, the film's line producer, told us, "You have to remember that what (Guerra) is talking about is a rough cut." Mulvehill further argues that the film deals with the particular culture of the Northern New Mexican mountains, quite distinct from urban Latino life.

"A negative depiction is a negative depiction," countered Guerra.

The disgruntled editor readily admits that he had aspirations of being used as a consultant on the picture, which is based on a script written by an Anglo (David S. Ward) from a novel by an Anglo (John Nichols).

But Esparza pointed out that several department heads on the production are Latino. And--alluding to his own credentials as a Chicano activist--added, "I don't need another adviser."

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