Much Mucho Amor is a new documentary about famed astrologer and international star Walter Mercado. Walter Mercado was a household name in many Latin households, but as his fame surged, he became a global sensation. Whether it was on his own show or featured appearances on Primer Impacto and El Show de Cristina, watchers could tune in and get their horoscope told to them by a man in ornate robes and bright shades of eyeshadow. All the while, he made flamboyant gestures against a mystical or palatial backdrop. His segments would end by blessing the audience and wishing them “mucho, mucho amor,” or lots and lots of love.
The 2020 documentary has been making its way through the film festival circuit and it is now coming to Netlflix. Directed by Cristina Costantini and Kareem Tabsch, Mucho Mucho Amor examines Mercado’s life through a delicate lens, exhibiting sensitivity and respect for the subject, and ultimately extends a loving look at the life of a loving man.
Mucho Mucho Amor is told through a series of interviews with Mercado’s closest friends, former business associates, and Mercado himself. In addition to the interviews, Costantni and Tabsch use pictures from his stage career, footage of his segments, and scenes from his early work as a soap star. One of the unique aspects of the film is that animation is used to tell the story of Mercado’s early childhood, where he became known as a miracle worker around his Puerto Rican town after healing a bird.
Animated by Alexa Lim Haas, the animation brings parts of the story to life in addition to providing very clever tarot card markers to introduce various sections of Mercado’s life. The animation is vibrant and detailed, mingling the most humble aspects of Mercado’s life with the most ostentatious.
The interviews do a great job of building up the legend surrounding Mercado. Famous for his costumes, and fortune telling, Mercado is also known for his effeminate looks. The film touches on the most controversial aspects of his persona. Mercado comes from a very Catholic and traditional culture and the film looks at the way he is both admired but also criticized. He is openly questioned about his sexuality and relationships.
Mercado’s answers are revolutionary for the time as he tells his interviewers that he does not think of himself in any terms that would require a label. In an almost Whitman-esque “ Song of Myself” answer, he says “he has sex with the wind.” The documentary shows how Mercado is about freedom and love and this is supported by the interviews.
Lin Manuel Miranda is interviewed and discusses the impact Mercado had on his life growing up and Eugenio Derbez discusses Mercado’s impact on his career. Interviews with Mercado and Bill Bakula, his former manager, also reveal a darker aspect to his story as they delve into the legal situation that led to Mercado leaving television in 2006.
While the stories are mainly positive, there are a couple situations involving Bakula’s management that casts a shadow over an otherwise happy documentary. It is easy to see why some aspects concerning finances are glossed over as they tend detract from the positive feel of the film. Unfortunately, this also causes some bumps in the organization of the narrative.
Mucho Mucho Amor is dedicated to “all the abuelitas,” or all the grandmas which was basically Mercado’s target audience. Many children, myself included, grew up watching television with their grandma and we waited for Walter to come out and tell us our always uplifting horoscope. This is a fitting dedication as it denotes love, which is how the story is told. The documentary hits Netlix on July 8th and shows how Mercado’s legacy is ingrained into American life and how generations who never even met him, have regard for him. Mucho Mucho Amor is for the grandmas, but it’s also for anyone who wants to feel some happiness.
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