film review Dolores documentary about Dolores Huerta
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Film Review: ‘Dolores’

UCSC alum looks back on the life of Dolores Huerta in new documentary

‘Dolores’ showcases photographs and clips throughout Dolores Huerta’s life, including her role in the 1965-70 Delano Grape Strike and the subsequent negotiations.

A long-overdue look at a pioneering activist, the new documentary Dolores is first and foremost an homage to Dolores Huerta, who at the ripe age of 87 seems just as vivacious as she was at 25. But it is also, says director Peter Bratt, a political act.

“Film controls the narrative, which ones are pushed and which are left out,” says Bratt, a UCSC alum. “That’s one reason why I was inspired to be a content creator as a person of color, was to challenge media in that way. It’s these critical, important and beautiful voices and stories that make up this country’s complex history, and as far as I’m concerned, there is room for them all.”

Huerta is a co-founder of the first successful farm workers union, United Farm Workers (UFW). She was a chief organizer and negotiator of the 1965 Delano grape strike—the first time workers successfully negotiated a contract with an agricultural enterprise. She popularized the slogan “Si, Se Puede” and was a pioneering advocate for farmworkers rights at a time when many aimed to keep women and people of color out of politics.  

Dolores follows Huerta’s journey as an activist from her late teens to her split from the UFW. It pits the voices of her supporters, Barack Obama and Bobby Kennedy among them, against Richard Nixon, Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly.

Like Huerta, Dolores has something to prove. It’s Bratt’s first go-round at a documentary about a woman that he has a deeply rooted respect for, and who was an icon in the Latino community he grew up in. No pressure, right? He admits it was daunting in more ways than one, not only because she is considered a living legend, but also because of the surprising lack of knowledge and perspective that younger generations have of her achievements. The question, he says, became: “How do we engage an entire generation and introduce them to Dolores and her work, especially when you are competing with so many other platforms like social media?”

Co-produced and backed by Carlos Santana, the film is an unintentionally timely response to the current political climate. Dolores first screened at the Sundance Film Festival on President Donald Trump’s Inauguration Day—where, Bratt recalls, the energy was less than effervescent, despite its ensuing 20-minute standing ovation.

“A lot of people are down. They feel like, ‘What’s the use? My voice doesn’t matter, my votes don’t count,’” he says. “Being around Dolores made me remember that people still have power. People can come together and create change, no matter how bad it gets.”

Dolores is the result of months of archive-combing for clips and photographs spanning seven decades. Though it is celebratory of her life, it doesn’t put her on a pedestal. It follows the hardships of her children, who were scarred from the years their mother spent away following her own path. It acknowledges that to this day, Cesar Chavez often gets more credit than she does for co-creating the UFW, and in spite of her accomplishments, she often still isn’t taken seriously.

Bratt says he was also inspired by Huerta’s love of music and dance—she wanted to be a professional dancer. In the film, Angela Davis poetically points out that in a way, she was a dancer “on the stage of justice.”

In retrospect, Dolores begins the same way it ends—with a story of hope followed by a modern take on injustices still happening today, framed by some really fantastic music. She was a figure beyond her time facing a society that was not ready for female leadership, or really women outside of the traditional boundaries of home.

If she prevailed, in spite of everything, then maybe we will, too.  


Dolores will screen at the Del Mar beginning 9/16. Tickets available at landmarktheatres.com.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Don Honda

    September 14, 2017 at 3:19 pm

    https://www.thecalifornian.com/story/news/2017/09/13/ufw-union-dues-pay-lawsuit-settlement/664307001/?from=global&sessionKey=&autologin=

    UFW union dues to pay for lawsuit settlement

    “A judge has ordered that United Farm Workers of America member dues be used to pay for the $1.2 million judgement in the civil action suit against the UFW from its own employees. “

  2. Don Honda

    September 14, 2017 at 3:19 pm

    It’s interesting that Illegal Aliens are encouraged to use Chavez as a hero for their rights and his motto, “Si Se Puede” because he was adamantly opposed to Illegal Immigration as they hurt his efforts to help Legal Farm Workers for better working conditions and better wages.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQ9jIXHhFJI

    http://www.latintimes.com/cesar-chavez-legacy-wet-lines-illegals-campaign-dark-side-latino-icons-opposition-162528

    https://www.amren.com/features/2014/06/cesar-chavez-the-saint-unmasked/

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cesar_Chavez

    Revisionist History of Chavez

    “The UFW during Chavez’s tenure was committed to restricting immigration. Chavez and Dolores Huerta, cofounder and president of the UFW, fought the Bracero Program that existed from 1942 to 1964. Their opposition stemmed from their belief that the program undermined U.S. workers and exploited the migrant workers. Since the Bracero Program ensured a constant supply of cheap immigrant labor for growers, immigrants could not protest any infringement of their rights, lest they be fired and replaced. Their efforts contributed to Congress ending the Bracero Program in 1964. In 1973, the UFW was one of the first labor unions to oppose proposed employer sanctions that would have prohibited hiring undocumented immigrants. Later during the 1980s, while Chavez was still working alongside Huerta, he was key in getting the amnesty provisions into the 1986 federal immigration act.

    On a few occasions, concerns that undocumented migrant labor would undermine UFW strike campaigns led to a number of controversial events, which the UFW describes as anti-strikebreaking events, but which have also been interpreted as being anti-immigrant. In 1969, Chavez and members of the UFW marched through the Imperial and Coachella Valleys to the border of Mexico to protest growers’ use of undocumented immigrants as strikebreakers. Joining him on the march were Reverend Ralph Abernathy and U.S. Senator Walter Mondale. In its early years, the UFW and Chavez went so far as to report undocumented immigrants who served as strikebreaking replacement workers (as well as those who refused to unionize) to the Immigration and Naturalization Service. In 1973, the United Farm Workers set up a “wet line” along the United States-Mexico border to prevent Mexican immigrants from entering the United States illegally and potentially undermining the UFW’s unionization efforts. During one such event, in which Chavez was not involved, some UFW members, under the guidance of Chavez’s cousin Manuel, physically attacked the strikebreakers after peaceful attempts to persuade them not to cross the border failed.”

    In 1974, the union inaugurated its “Illegals Campaign,” in which it urged members to report undocumented workers to federal authorities for deportation.

    https://books.google.com/books?id=uDcsAwAAQBAJ&pg=PA86&lpg=PA86&dq=%22campaign+against+Illegals%22+UFW+Chavez&source=bl&ots=ubarGu_FLn&sig=FEAVzVWokGPOYMYdYI_OugxFQB8&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjSs6mNwIzMAhULNj4KHQjPDpgQ6AEITjAI#v=onepage&q=%22campaign%20against%20Illegals%22%20UFW%20Chavez&f=false

    https://www.thecalifornian.com/story/news/2017/09/13/ufw-union-dues-pay-lawsuit-settlement/664307001/?from=global&sessionKey=&autologin=

    UFW union dues to pay for lawsuit settlement

    “A judge has ordered that United Farm Workers of America member dues be used to pay for the $1.2 million judgement in the civil action suit against the UFW from its own employees. “

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