In Milagro, a small town in the American Southwest, Ladd Devine plans to build a major new resort development. While activist Ruby Archuleta and lawyer/newspaper editor Charlie Bloom realize that this will result in the eventual displacement of the local Hispanic farmers, they cannot arouse much opposition because of the short term opportunities offered by construction jobs.
But when Joe Mondragon illegally diverts water to irrigate his bean field, the local people support him because of their resentment of water use laws that favor the rich like Devine. When the Governor sends in ruthless troubleshooter Kyril Montana to settle things quickly before the lucrative development is cancelled, a small war threatens to erupt.
The Milagro Beanfield War is a 1988 American comedy-drama film directed by Robert Redford from a screenplay written by John Nichols and David S. Ward based on Nichols’ novel of the same name. The ensemble cast includes Ruben Blades, Richard Bradford, Sônia Braga, Julie Carmen, James Gammon, Melanie Griffith, John Heard, Daniel Stern, Chick Vennera, and Christopher Walken.
Filmed on location in Truchas, New Mexico, the film is set in the fictional rural town of Milagro, with a population of 426, a predominantly Hispanic and Catholic town, with a largely interrelated population. The film tells of one man’s struggle as he defends his small beanfield and his community against much larger business and state political interests.
About the Story
Nearly 500 residents of the agricultural community of Milagro in the mountains of northern New Mexico face a crisis when politicians and business interests make a backroom deal to usurp the town’s water in order to pave the way for a land buy-out. Due to the new laws, Joe Mondragon is unable to make a living farming because he is not allowed to divert water from an irrigation ditch that runs past his property.
Frustrated, and unable to find work, Joe visits his father’s field. He happens upon a tag that reads “prohibited” covering a valve on the irrigation ditch. He kicks the valve, unintentionally breaking it, allowing water to flood his fields. He decides against repairing the valve and instead decides to plant beans in the field. This leads to a confrontation with powerful state interests, including a hired gun brought in from out of town.
The Milagro Beanfield War (1988)
Directed by: Robert Redford
Starring: Rubén Blades, Richard Bradford, Sonia Braga, Julie Carmen, James Gammon, Melanie Griffith, John Heard, Carlos Riquelme, Chick Vennera, Olga Merediz
Screenplay by: John Nichols
Production Design by: Joe Aubel, Thomas L. Roysden
Cinematography by: Robbie Greenberg
Film Editing by: Dede Allen, Jim Miller
Costume Design by: Bernie Pollack
Set Decoration by: Thomas L. Roysden
Art Direction by: Brandy Alexander, Joe Aubel, Pamela Marcotte
Music by: Dave Grusin
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Release Date: March 18, 1988