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In 1909, Emiliano Zapata, a well-born but penniless Mexican Mestizo from the southern state of Morelos, comes to Mexico City to complain that their arable land has been enclosed, leaving them only in the barren hills. His expressed dissatisfaction with the response of the President Diaz puts him in danger, and when he rashly rescues a prisoner from the local militia he becomes an outlaw. Urged on by a strolling intellectual, Fernando, he supports the exiled Don Francisco Madero against Diaz, and becomes the leader of his forces in the South as Francisco 'Pancho' Villa is in the North. Diaz flees, and Madero takes his place; but he is a puppet president, in the hands of the leader of the army, Huerta, who has him assassinated when he tries to express solidarity for the men who fought for him. Zapata and Villa return to arms, and, successful in victory, seek to find a leader for the country. Unwillingly, Zapata takes the job, but, a while later, he responds to some petitioners from his ... Written by
this was Marlon Brando and Anthony Quinn at their best ---the entire supporting cast was superb.
Steinbeck hadn't written anything as powerful as this since he did his tale of the Okies during the depression. Zapata is truly one of the great heroes of the 20th century, and Brando captured this along with the frustration of trying to do the right thing and yet being hamstrung by the bureaucrats who manage to survive every change in government, no matter which way in turns.The final scene in the movie leaves Zapata as a legend --- did he die, or does he still live to help the millions of peons in Mexico.
Elia Kazan's direction was terrific.
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