The true story of Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata, who led the Mexican people in revolt against several dictatorships in the early 1900s.
Viva Zapata! (1952)
Directed by Elia Kazan
Written by John Steinbeck
Starring Marlon Brando, Anthony Quinn, Jean Peters,
Joseph Wiseman, Alan Reed, Frank Silvera, Harold Gordon
Oscar Wins - Best Supporting Actor (Anthony Quinn)
Oscar Nominations - Best Actor (Marlon Brando), Best Original Screenplay, Best Art Direction, Best Original Score (Alex North)
Viva Zapata! has aged like a wheel of cheese that fell behind the fridge for seven decades. For starters, the casting of Marlon Brando as Emiliano Zapata is just asinine, especially when Mexican-American actor Anthony Quinn is standing right over there, fully ready to commit to a character he really wanted to play and felt he deserved to play. Many of the film's supporting characters are played by white actors too, particularly Pancho Villa, who is played by Fred fucking Flintstone. Frankly, the whole production is insulting to anyone with Hispanic roots. Now that I've got that out of the way, the final result is a decent flick that gives the audience the gist about the Mexican Revolution.
In the early 1900s, Mexico was living under the iron fisted rule of Porfirio Diaz. He was challenged by Francisco Madero, who led a rebel uprising against him. One of the leaders of this uprising was Emiliano Zapata, a peasant turned rebel hero when he promised to win back his peoples' land by defeating Diaz. However, once Madero won the war, he proved to be a weak leader who was quickly assassinated and succeeded by his general, Victoriano Huerta, another iron-fisted dictator. Zapata kept fighting, and he kept winning, but new enemies kept popping up and Zapata was ultimately killed. But Zapata remains a symbol of rebellion and reform in Mexico to this very day.
I think the film does well in highlighting why Zapata was so respected by his people. He was one of the few Mexican leaders who wasn't corrupt and who genuinely wanted to help his people be free of tyranny. Regrettably, the film is tainted by poor decision-making and a lack of respect for Hispanic people.