Review: Cesar Chávez

Cesar_Chavez_2014_filmIt’s only appropriate that around the time of Cesar Chávez day, that we reflect on the work of Chávez and the strides he made for Mexican American workers. He founded the United Farm Workers in 1962 and supported various worker strikes in California and Texas; his impact is still felt today.

Diego Luna’s film, “Cesar Chávez,” premiered nationwide on March 28th 2014; it is a biographical film that celebrates the life and accomplishments of Chávez. The film stars Michael Peña as Chávez and John Malkovich as the owner of a grape farm who leads the opposition to Chávez. The film includes great Latina and Latino actors, such as America Ferrera, Rosario Dawson, Yancey Arias, Jacob Vargas, and cameos by Gael García Bernal and Hector Sanchez. The film mainly focuses on Chavez’s efforts to organize farm workers in California, many of them being braceros.

The film screened earlier in the year at various locations in the US but the most noteworthy film screening was in Los Angeles, California. A group of 1000 migrant workers sat in folding chairs and watched “Cesar Chávez” on an inflatable screen outside of the union hall where the first contracts were signed in 1970 between workers and the company owners.

Diego Luna does a great job at executing what he set out to do: he paints a portrait of Cesar Chávez that audiences will admire and respect. Throughout the film we get to view Chávez not only as a pacifist leader, but also as a human being.  The film starts with Chávez in jail explaining who he is and where he comes from. The audience gets an idea of his life and what he stands for and throughout the film we are introduced to his relationships with his wife and his children.

The film captures the time period of Chavez’s life starting with his organization of the United Farm Works all the way to the 1975 Modesto March,which established the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act. Through the portrayal of events, we get a sense of what Chávez had to endure and the sacrifices he had to make throughout his life in order to achieve his goals. All of the actors do great jobs, especially Michael Peña as Cesar Chávez and America Ferrera as Helen Chávez.

“Cesar Chávez” had a lot of heart touching moments; particularly the fasting scene. Seeing Chávez having to starve day by day in order to get his union to become dedicated to non-violence was a touching moment that moved the audience. It’s important not only to view Chávez as a rights activist but also as a human being with faults. The scenes in which Chávez is seen as a husband and a father displays a different side of his persona that we don’t usually tend to see.

All in all, the film was a great ode to Chavez and his life work. It’s important that a film encapsulates the hard work and dedication of not only Chavez, but his wife and Dolores Huerta.  It is highly recommended to watch this movie; it is a reminder of all the struggles that minority workers faced up until 1960s. Learning about the story of Cesar Chávez riles up all sort of emotions, but it mainly acts as a reminder of Chávez’s inspirational sense of duty and the importance of dedication.  It’s impossible to walk away from this film without feeling motivated to make a difference in this world.

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