This 1952 classic black and white film stars a young and virile Marlon Brando as Emiliano Zapata, the great Mexican revolutionary. The co-star is Anthony Quinn who plays Brando’s brother and who also is a revolutionary. (Quinn won the Oscar for best supporting actor for this film.) They are fighting a corrupt government.
Elia Kazan directs and John Steinbeck writes the story so you know from these two great men you are going to get a movie concerned about social justice and the rights of the underdog.
In the film when the peasants go and plead their case to the authorities they get nowhere. Finally they begin to resist the oppression. Zapata is arrested and led off. The peasants slowly gather around the police until the police realize they have no alternative but to free their prisoner and the revolution in the south of Mexico begins. This scene where they free Zapata is symbolic of the message of the film---that when we join together, the poor and disenfranchised have the power to change things. In the north the war is led by Pancho Villa. Eventually they win and Zapata is placed in control of the government and he soon realizes that he is turning into the same type of oppressor as the ones he fought against and he goes home.
Eventually the government comes after Zapata and tricks him and kills him…but at the end of the film it is made clear that his memory will not die and others will take his place in the struggle for freedom.
The key message is: trust yourself, not the government, not leaders.