Cabeza de Vaca (1990)

R   |    |  Adventure, Drama, History


Cabeza de Vaca (1990) Poster

A handful of survivors from a disastrous 1528 Spanish expedition to Florida journey across the coast until they reach Mexico.

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7/10
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  • Cabeza de Vaca (1990)
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11 December 2003 | jg1972
a journey through the Southwest
In a strange and fantastic film, the Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca interacts with American Indians before any other Europeans and becomes integrated into their world before he his torn out of it by the arrival of more Spanish.

To answer a common question . . . Why does Florida look like Arizona in this film? Because it's not Florida. It's not even supposed to be Florida.

The makers of this film (and the makers of this film's packaging) have their facts wrong but their scenery right. Cabeza de Vaca landed in Texas, probably at the site of today's Galveston. That explains the slow-moving, brown water streams and the thick vegetation and mosquitoes. He then walked west or southwest. West Texas and northern Mexico do have semi-desert conditions and modest sized mountains and mesas and some canyons. The real Cabeza de Vaca left Florida on a flimsy raft -- depicted in the film -- hoping to make it to Cuba. Instead, he landed on the Texas gulf coast. I don't know why the filmmakers labeled the landscape as Florida.

This film is odd. It is exceptionally slow paced. There is little intelligible dialogue: lots of grunts or dialogue in indigenous languages (but no subtitles). We are as lost as Cabeza de Vaca. This film is from his point of view, and no explanation for his healing powers is offered. Nor do we receive an explanation of the tribal dynamics (some accept him, some enslave him, another seems to wish to execute him).

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