MUCHO MUCHO AMOR – Review by Diane Carson

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Mucho Mucho Amor profiles the lovable and loving Walter Mercado

Several superb documentaries devoted to remarkable individuals have recently appeared. Now I must add another amazing personality: Walter Mercado whom directors Cristina Costantini and Kareem Tabsch let shine in Mucho Mucho Amor. Statistics testify to his astonishing popularity, 120 million viewers a day over decades, but those numbers don’t begin to reflect this charismatic, gender-defying star.

Born poor in 1932 Puerto Rico, he asserts he was always a dreamer, knew he was different, and embraced it since, as his mother told him, different is a gift. He moved from accomplished Flamenco dancer to actor to world famous astrologer, adored in Latin America, Italy, Holland, the U.K., and the U.S. Fans describe their devotion to him as “like a religion,” while he endorsed and took the best from numerous religions. As he said, “No one has a monopoly on god.” Above all, he advocated helping people become stronger with belief in oneself.

While this may sound conventional, Walter was anything but. Proud of his flamboyance, his elaborate capes and jewelry, himself as a force of nature, Walter all but jumps off the screen here with an absolutely irresistible loving and lovable presence. One of the most touching scenes is Lin-Manual Miranda on the verge of tears and tongue-tied, gushing when he gets to meet Walter. In May 2019 the Miami History Museum celebrated his life in a spectacular event that comes near the end of this upbeat, exhilarating documentary.

Beautiful animation introduces chapters and details, most appropriately Tarot card signifiers. In addition, Walter’s long-time devoted assistant Willie Acosta, his many nieces, his business partner Bill Bakula (who hoodwinked Walter into signing over rights to his name and property), numerous fans and producers talk about Walter. But there is no substitute for the many scenes of Walter himself holding forth, a consummate showman commanding everyone who watches, even now. He gave hope to LGBTQ individuals as well as to millions of other people with his extraordinary gift. Right now, this is the upbeat and energetic dose of happiness we need.

Mostly in English, with some Spanish with English subtitles, Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado is available on Netflix beginning July 8.

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Diane Carson

Diane Carson, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, has reviewed films for over 25 years and has covered the Cannes, Telluride, Toronto, Palm Springs, and Sundance festivals. She writes for KDHX, 88.1 FM. St. Louis’ community radio. One of the founders of the St. Louis International Film Festival, she continues to serve on juries. A past president of the University Film and Video Association, she taught film studies and production at St. Louis Community College and at Webster University. Her new book, written with two colleagues, is “Appetites and Anxieties: Food, Film, and the Politics of Representation,” Wayne State U. Press, 2014.