Last night Latinitas gave me the opportunity to attend an advanced screening of the Cesar Chavez movie put on by HABLA. It has been a while since I've been excited about a movie, and I must say this is a movie to be excited about! I could feel the anticipation of the audience as we prepared for the film by chanting some of the same chants that would appear in the movie. We wrapped up with a very enthusiastic farm worker's clap and the movie began, diving straight into Cesar's efforts with the United Farm Workers, a struggle for justice that not enough people know about.
My favorite character had to be Helen Chavez, played by the lovely America Ferrera. After her appearance in support of UT's undocumented students on campus earlier in the school year she had already won my admiration, and her performance in this film only made me love her more! In my opinion the best scene in the movie is Helen's arrest which Cesar was clearly not in favor of. You can't help but fall in love with Helen as she stands on a truck yelling ¡Huelga! over and over, despite warnings that she would be arrested. I was glad that the film made plenty of references to the role of women in the movement, and also portrayed the tension this created between women and their husbands as they stepped out of the domestic sphere to take on leadership roles in the strikes.Rosario Dawson plays Dolores Huerta, a woman who was instrumental in the success of the UFW. In her scenes she is portrayed as strong and fearless, and I would have loved to see her character developed a bit more.
The movie definitely elicits every emotion you can think of; excitement, sadness, anger, and believe it or not there are plenty of humorous moments as well. I could tell that the audience was having a great time interacting with the cultural references in the film. Every now and then I could hear someone joining in with a chant or a clap, and of course there were several people singing along when De Colores was played during a moment in the film that almost brought me to tears. It is a wonderful thing to see so much of who you are reflected on the big screen in a positive light.
There are clearly limits to how much a 1 hour and 40 minute film can cover, but overall I believe the film did a wonderful job of portraying a portion of Cesar's Chavez's life as an activist, while also giving the audience a glimpse of what was going on in his family life. You get to see Cesar struggle with his duties as an activist, husband, and father which is so often left out of Cesar's brief mention in history books ( if you were lucky enough to read about him in school). This inspiring film reminds viewers that Cesar Chavez was simply advocating for basic human rights. You can flip through any newspaper and realize that his fight is still being fought to this day.
I can only hope that this film sets the stage for the production of films that have a strong message and a talented Latino cast members to deliver it. It would also be amazing to see a major motion picture made about the life of a Latina activist, it is long overdue. It looks like we have some work to do fellow Latinitas!
Go check out Cesar Chavez this weekend! I know I'll be going back to see it again