The Milagro Beanfield War is a charming, fanciful little fable built around weighty issues concerning the environment, the preservation of a cultural heritage and the rights of citizens versus the might of the dollar.
The director and his screenwriters, who adapted John Nichols’ 1974 novel, adeptly juggle at least a dozen major characters in telling the story of how one man’s decision to cultivate his land, which is coveted by outside developers intent upon building a resort, leads to a standoff between natives of the area and the big boys.
Redford and company have put a quirky twist on the material, investing it with a quasi-mystical aspect as well as some raw comedy.
Set in modern-day New Mexico, tale is set in motion when improverished farmer Joe Mondrago (Chick Vennera) improperly diverts some water from a main irrigation channel onto his own modest plot of land in order to start up a beanfield. This little act of defiance stirs up the handful of activists in the affected village, notably garage owner Ruby Archuleta (Sonia Braga), who recruits dropped out radical attorney and newspaperman Charley Bloom (John Heard) to rally ’round the cause.
1988: Best Original Score