Sundance 2020: ‘Mucho Mucho Amor’ is the Beautiful and Worthy Reflection of Latinx Icon Walter Mercado We Need – Review
Walter Mercado needs no introduction to a Latinx audience. The Puerto Rican Astrologer first took Latin America by storm with his televised horoscopes in the 70s. If Mercado was decked out in capes reading horoscopes on TV, people would have no choice but to sit quietly and wait for their sign to be read. “¡Libra… Escucha mucho que tu cuerpo te pide!” His rise in stardom would know no limitations as he spread his work across multiple fields- consulting world leaders and publishing multiple books just to name a few achievements. The space he occupies in the heart of Latinx culture is immeasurable.
He stepped out of the spotlight mysteriously in 2007 and was rarely seen after. Most thought of him as either an estranged hermit or already dead. Mercado spread his craft across borders for over 30 years and was not in the spotlight again until late 2019. The HistoryMiami Museum in Florida opened the “Mucho, Mucho Amor: 50 Years of Walter Mercado” exhibit – full of his personal wardrobe, art, and more works from and inspired by. He attended the opening in typical Mercado fashion (golden throne included). Sadly, it was his last hoorah for he passed away three months later on November 2, 2019.
Netflix’s new documentary Mucho Mucho Amor follows Mercado months before his passing – leading all up to the opening of the HistoryMiami exhibit. Everyone knows about Mercado, but this doc dares to question audiences’ knowledge of the real famed astrologer. Not the image, but the real human being behind it all. The result is a beautiful one of a kind examination that would make any naysayer believe that the stars themselves aligned to make this happen.
Directors Cristina Costantini and Kareem Tabsch construct the film with the intent to create a neutral study that can be as brutally honest as possible. They show their obvious love and appreciation for Mercado (again who is not a fan?), but that never gets in the way of their objective. Although, there are moments where unfiltered fandom takes the wheel, it comes with a purpose. To much surprise, many harsh truths come from Mercado himself.
Mucho Mucho Amor in many ways is Mercado’s own therapeutic means of setting his life story straight with the public. Finally, a chance to pierce the veil by his own hands – from humble beginnings in rural Puerto Rico, to his eventual fall from royalty in the infamous legal battle over his name. Impressively, no aspect of his career, unproblematic or not, is left untouched. Within this journey, Costantini and Tabsch refuse to shy away from topics such as sex, gender, money, and the reliability of horoscopes. Not every topic is easy for Mercado to talk about, but the directing duo finds a way to shed necessary light, further illuminating how unique Mercado’s non-gender conforming presence was and is in Latinx culture (which has been traditionally homophobic for decades).
The amount of archival footage and sheer talent involved is noteworthy. Not only do other Latin icons such as Raúl De Molina (El Gordo y la Flaca) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (His Dark Materials) share their positive views, but the directing duo also allows space for those who do not necessarily see Mercado under a positive light with Bill Bakula, Mercado’s former disgraced manager, being the most prominent example. Hearing different perspectives on Mercado helps viewers form their own. Opinions may vary, but through skilled craftsmanship, Costantini and Tabsch get their key message across: Mercado lit an everlasting candle of hope.
This goes beyond horoscopes and astrology, which are fields widely discredited to this day. Mucho Mucho Amor is divided into chapters represented by different tarot cards. As the film progresses, one feels as if Mercado is giving himself the final reading of his physical life through this inventive editing on behalf of the filmmakers. Does Mercado really carry this power? The answer does not matter. Mercado even admits that he did some very silly things in his career. Mercado’s legacy is not built on the validity of the stars, it is built on hope.
Mercado transmitted himself into people’s houses to tell them what no one else was saying: do not lose hope for tomorrow is another day and here is how you can succeed. One watch of this doc will have skeptics turning to the sky; not in search of answers but in search of ambition. Regardless of whether one believes Mercado’s tellings, that is a power within itself. The fact that this film comes shortly after his passing truly makes one believe that it was meant to be.
Mucho Mucho Amor joins the rank of special docs that could have only been filmed in their exact place in time. Walter explains in the film, “I used to be a star, but now I’m a constellation.” Mercado, despite all odds, gets to close the last chapter of his physical life in fashion. Directors Costantini and Tabsch could have not helped Mercado do this in a more bittersweet and wholesome way. They beautifully portray on film that the beacon of hope that is Walter Mercado does not shine any less now that he is gone, it is eternal.
Mucho Mucho Amor is expected to release on Netflix later this year!