Eight years after winning an Oscar for his first film behind the camera, ORDINARY PEOPLE, Robert Redford returns to directing with this charming movie based on novelist John Nichols' cult favorite The Milagro Beanfield War. A decades-old water rights act has prohibited the subsistence farmers in Milagro, New Mexico, from irrigating their property. But when Joe Mondragon (Chick Vennera), a feisty local handyman, accidentally kicks open a sluice gate and sends water rushing down to his field, he decides to plant beans on the land as an act of rebellion against the forces of progress embodied in a new recreational area under development. The people of Milagro begin taking sides, most of them against the recreational area that threatens their way of life. The action heats up, some surprising alliances are formed, and before long events take a violent turn. Director Redford has kept much of Nichols' story and structure intact. More important, he has retained the novel's whimsical, buoyant spirit. While Redford has toned down the class conflict of the story, his film remains pointedly political, focusing on a traditional culture threatened by profit-motivated development. THE MILAGRO BEANFIELD WAR pokes gently at the funny bone and is sympathetic without becoming sentimental. The score, by Dave Grusin, won an Academy Award.