Burn (Quemada)

The 1969 movie released in early January 1970, directed by Gillo Pontecorvo, with Marlon Brando, Evaristo Marquez, Norman Hill, Renato Salvatori as main cast is a story of an organized slave revolt on the Caribbean island of Quemada. Burn is known as one of the greatest movies made on the topic of colonialism. Initially the movie had Spaniards in control of sugar trade in the island but had to change it to Portuguese after Spain objected to it. The colonist rulers are shown to be in control of the profitable sugar plantation and trade at Quemada wiping out all the rebellious elements that hindered their activities.

The local workers at the plantation are replaced with black slaves imported from Africa to curtail the indigenous uprising. The most important is the role of a foreigner manipulator, the British Sir William Walker, shown as an expert getting paid for creating war. The scenes are set in 1845 Caribbean island of Quemada where the British government sends a mercenary, Sir William Walker (Marlon Brando) for disrupting the Portuguese monopoly of sugar plantation in the colony.

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He also approaches some of the influential person on the island like businessman, Teddy Sanchez (Renato Salvatori) and also petty laborer, Jose Dolores (Evaristo Marquez), a porter at the dock. Since most of the local businessmen are found interested in getting rid of the ruling Portuguese and are thus evoked by Walker to overthrow the ruling regime. Initially Walker persuades Dolores to organize a bank theft and kill several Portuguese soldiers. Following which Dolores forms a band of dacoits that is joined by many slaves from the local plantation.
On the other hand, Walker persuades Teddy to overthrow the Portuguese governor and liberate the island. Many of the local white population support the revolt too. The revolt ends successfully and slaves return to plantations. Walker later returns to England after completing his mission. Ten years later, Walker is contacted again by British Sugar Company complaining about Dolores interfering with the local businessmen. This time Walker is called to end the rebellion led by Dolores. This time he returns to the island leading the British against the rebel Dolores, whom he himself created ten years back.
His other old acquaintance, businessman Teddy Sanchez is now the governor of the island. Teddy reacting to Sir Walker’s callous tactics gets killed in return and replaced by a military dictatorship. Walker also detains Dolores and asks him to leave the island. Dolores instead prefers to face execution and die for his cause. In the end, the situation comes under control of the British and everything seems to get in order. To everyone’s surprise, Walker gets killed by a petty dock porter while leaving the island. The movie is full of intrigues, secretive plots, dirty manipulation and rebellious warfare.
The main character, Sir William Walker is shown always busy cheating all the groups on the island. With his exceptional craftiness, Walker successfully turns a simple dock porter into a rebel. He meticulously persuades him to indulge in a bank robbery and successive massacre of the troops after which he foresees his logical transformation towards revolt. Along side, Walker warns the white plantation owners about the suspected indigenous uprising and provokes them to curb it well before time. He thus works to ignites and keeps the flame of war burning throughout the movie.
The struggle brings nothing for either party but to place the island in hands of the British, Walker’s ultimate motive. The movie clearly shows the motives of the business class, who in collaboration with the army exploits and deprives the peasant of their due rights. Burn is a real colonist political show, a well produced Italian historical drama on 112 minutes of deluxe color, has been Brando’s best in the late 60s. The film is a fascinating piece of cinematic art and a good watch. Reference Pontecorvo, Gillo. Burn (Quemada). 1969 (Release Jan 1970). Les Productions Artistes Associes P. E. A. France

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