Thursday, December 13, 2012

Freedom Sells.....But Who's Buying?

That's how it must have seemed to Venezuelan revolutionary Francisco Miranda(actually born in the Canary Islands) as he embarked on his quest to rid Latin America of foreign (read "Spanish")domination and create a republic from the base of the Mississippi to Patagonia governed by rule of law and the respect for individual freedoms.

In the wrong hands this could have turned out to be wretched exercise in Latin civics, but director Luis Alberto Lamata spins his true-life tale like the finest of swashbuckling political adventures, whilst maintaining an intimate feel for his hero. Miranda (a commanding portrayal by Jorge Reyes) opens the film in a physical and emotional funk: confined to a prison cell by the very people he banded together on the road to freedom (including an ascendant Simon Bolivar), he has only his trusted Man Friday - Salim, to relay on.

In comes a local priest, with an offer to write the general's awesome and multi-layered story for the world and future generations to remember. The over-protective Salim smells a rat, but Miranda is lured by the offer to immortalize him and his journey in words and thus begins a breathtaking (if at times a tad lengthy) odyssey across late 18th and early 19th Century Europe: Spain, France, Russia, England. America's in there too, with  Miranda contributing to the American and French revolutions before turing his full energies tothe cause that ignited him in the first place: freeing his homeland.

Here, the film becomes slightly less compelling, as apart from a fateful landing with his troops on what is now Venezuela's east coast, there is little to occupy the viewer satisfactorily apart from the inner conflict that now racks the priest as he seeks to sort out his now complete admiration for the man he was initially send to deceive and disgrace (and even kill, but we give away too much)

The appearance of Danny Glover, as a terror-minded free Black, is another sore point. Though the exchange between the two characters provides some nice insights, the overall scene is so contrived as to suggest that Glover's presence was almost solely for the purpose of attracting funding (who knows, he may well have funded it himself, at least in part).

Still, there's no denying Miranda is a stylish and moving true-life account of one of the most charismatic, polarizing and seminal figures in Latin American history.
Bob Marley said "Now we'll find out who is he real revolutionary" He needn't have looked as far as Zimbabwe in the late 70s. History already offered up a bonafide example in nearby Venezuela.

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