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Burn!
Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo
Produced by Alberto Grimaldi
Written by Franco Solinas
Giorgio Arlorio
Starring Marlon Brando
Evaristo Márquez
Music by Ennio Morricone
Cinematography Marcello Gatti
Studio Europee Associate SAS
Produzioni Europee Associati
Distributed by United Artists
Release date(s) 1969
Running time 112 min (U.S.)

Burn! (Italian title: Queimada) is a 1969 film directed by Gillo Pontecorvo; starring Marlon Brando. The plot is loosely based on events in the history of Guadeloupe. The main character is named after William Walker, the famous American filibuster. While based on issues that Walker symbolically represented, the film is not based on the life of Walker.

Contents

Plot

A British agent, Sir William Walker (Marlon Brando), is an agent provocateur sent to the island of Queimada (a fictional Portuguese colony in the Lesser Antilles island group in the Caribbean) to organize an uprising of black slaves to overthrow the Portuguese regime. Great Britain wants to get economic control of the island, because it is an important sugar cane producer.

The plan is to replace the Portuguese administration by a formally sovereign state controlled by white latifundists loyal to Great Britain. To realize this project, William Walker persuades the black slaves to fight for their liberation from slavery and for freedom.

José Dolores (Evaristo Márquez) becomes the leader of the rebellion, while white political leaders assassinate the governor and establish a provisional government. After the overthrow of the Portuguese regime, British interests establish a corrupt puppet government, while Dolores is marginalized. While slavery had been formally ended and the former slaves in theory had rights, a legal and property system was established that forced them to continue to work in the sugar cane plantations in even worse conditions than before.

William Walker leaves the island after the revolution. He comes back to Queimada 10 years later, this time to destroy the black political movement he had helped create. José Dolores has taken Walker's ideas to heart and is now leading a rebel army against the British puppet regime in Queimada. Walker is no longer working for the British government but for the Royal Sugar Company, which organizes its own army and manipulates Queimada politics directly, including ordering the execution of one of its puppet presidents. After this, British troops land on the island, contributing artillery and crack infantry for fighting the rebels. Their main strategy is setting fire to the forests and sugar-cane fields to draw out the rebels—a strategy that achieves its goal but also destroys the reason for Britain's interest in the island.

Eventually, the rebel army is defeated and Jose Dolores is captured. Dolores is offered his freedom in return for renouncing the rebellion. However, Dolores turns down this offer and is garotted, willingly sacrificing himself as a martyr. The movie ends when Walker is killed by a man in the street, seemingly as revenge for Dolores's death.

A clever framing device is used: When Walker debarks at the Queimada dock at the very start of the film, a young man (Jose Dolores) steps forward, asking "Your bag, senhor?" At the end of the film, when Walker is walking toward the ship that is to take him home, a young man resembling Dolores approaches, asking, "Your bag, Senhor?" stabbing Walker before he can reply.

Theme

William Walker was the name of a famous American filibuster who led a privately-backed invasion of Nicaragua in the 1850s. He was overthrown when his government threatened the interests of railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt. The chief protagonist's name and personality are an homage to this person, although they are of different nationalities.

Brando had the opportunity to have a role on Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid but chose instead to work on this film. He also had to turn down a major role in Ryan's Daughter because of this film's production problems.

Trivia

  • Evaristo Márquez, Brando's co-star, was a non-actor and a real-life sugarcane plantation worker. His role was originally to be played by Sidney Poitier, but Pontecorvo insisted on a non-professional actor.[citation needed]
  • In an interview with Larry King, Brando claimed that Burn! was his personal favorite film to have worked on. In his autobiography he claims, "I did some of my best acting in Burn!"
  • In Orhan Pamuk's book Kar, the film is mentioned by Lacivert while talking with Ka in his cell.

External links

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