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Camera 3 Downtown
Director: Peter Bratt (La Mission, Follow Me Home)
Synopsis: An equal partner in co-founding the first farm workers unions with Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta's enormous contributions to American activism have gone largely unrecognized. She tirelessly led the fight for racial and labor justice alongside Chavez, becoming one of the most defiant feminists of the 20th century -- and she continues the fight to this day, at 87. With intimate and unprecedented access to this intensely private mother to eleven, the film reveals the raw, personal stakes involved in committing one's life to social change. "Energetic and engaging."--Variety
Running Time: 96 Minutes (plus 8-10 minutes of trailers)
Official Web Site:
MPAA Rating: NR
No free passes or daily deals, but discount cards o.k.
A satisfyingly complex doc
By Duane Byrge
Peter Bratt's doc pays tribute to Dolores Huerta, an undersung heroine of the workers' rights movement who was overshadowed in recognition by Cesar Chavez.
When people say, “Cesar Chavez,” the conversation likely turns to the United Farm Workers and the grape strike. When people say “Dolores Huerta,” the usual response is, “Dolores who?”
Dolores Huerta co-founded the UFWA along with Chavez, but is rarely given the credit. In Dolores, a U.S. Documentary Competition entry at the Sundance Film Festival, filmmaker Peter Bratt fleshes her out in fullest political and social dimension, but also captures her personal life and driven personality.
A mother of 11 during the course of three marriages, Huerta was a rolling stone even by 1960s and '70s standards. She regularly left her children with relatives or friends to dash off to rally farmworkers to stand up against the oppressive agribusiness industry. It's a comprehensive and earthy depiction of this pioneer Chicano workers' rights leader, a woman whose family extended to migrant strangers but who, essentially, put them before her own children. In this warts-and-all look at the woman, Bratt does not gloss over Huerta's shortcomings but paints clearly her contradictory nature.
Mixing historical footage and interviews with her family and pertinent social activists of “the day,” Bratt distills the complexity of an unstoppable woman and the impact she brought not only to workers' rights but to the expanding role of women at that time. In essence, she never got her due: The face of the movement was always Chavez, not because he was in anyway a publicity hound, but because of the “women should be in the home” values of the time.
Bratt certainly illuminates the uncertainty of her quest: the early dawns of heading out to rally strangers and the turmoil of a life fighting against superior, institutional forces. A spicy mix of talking heads round out the significance of Huerta's contribution: Angela Davis, Chavez and an array of progressive social activists of the time. In addition, dollops of opposition voices are displayed: Bill O'Reilly gives credence to Huerta's lack of credit and historical anonymity when he says, “I've never heard of this woman.”
This documentary gives “this woman” her due.
Copyright 2017 Hollywood Reporter
Energetic, Engaging Documentary
By Dennis Harvey, Film Critic
Cesar Chavez remains the icon of U.S. agricultural labor rights, but his close colleague Dolores Huerta merits an equal place of reverence. Peter Bratt’s energetic, engaging “Dolores” argues that only basic sexism has denied her that rightful status, while celebrating the 86-year-old’s myriad accomplishments in a feature documentary whose running time necessarily condenses much of an exceptionally eventful, still-active life.
While Huerta may not yet get her full due in the history books (at least compared with the late Chavez), the fact that she is still regarded as a serious force by anti-union and other conservative forces was borne out a decade ago, when her observation that “Republicans hate Latinos” in a campus speech prompted her name to be banned from some public school curricula, among other enraged right-wing reactions. Huerta shrugged off the controversy, and indeed, one thing “Dolores” makes clear is that she doesn’t care about being liked, so long as she is working toward the larger good. That stubborn indifference to most outside criticism is, in fact, one of the most likable things about her.
Huerta has sacrificed a conventional private life in order to be a highly public advocate and agitator. The verbal attacks against her have been primarily personal — many of them hinging on her two divorces, 11 children with three spouses, and her rejection of taking a “stay-at-home mom” role to raise them. She is dismissive of such criticism because it doesn’t reflect her values and priorities: Asked in one vintage TV interview if she ever yearns for “what most women want,” i.e. having their nails done and so forth, she call such things “wastes of time.” She’s also aware that a man with a similar history as hers would never have been judged a moral failure for emphasizing work over domestic life.
Bratt’s fast-paced chronology charts Huerta’s rapid rise to positions then unprecedented for a Latina: At age 25, she was already writing proposed legislation as part of California’s progressive Community Service Organization; at 30, she co-founded the Agricultural Workers Assn., which would eventually become United Farm Workers. The attempt to unionize field laborers in California, then nationally — many of them Spanish-speaking undocumented immigrants — was an exceptionally long, tortured, sometimes violent one that was vehemently opposed by most growers, who had police, the courts, and politicians on their side.
Aware of racial inequities from an early age, Huerta saw the often miserable labor conditions and pay for workers in agribusiness as a reflection of a racist power structure. She and Chavez “walked the walk” by living in the poor communities for which they advocated. While he was widely assumed to be the “true leader,” she was in fact the indefatigable architect of many attention-getting protest tactics.
Theirs was a stormy if highly productive relationship in which he, too, sometimes took umbrage at her unwillingness to take a deferential gender role. Decades later, that same tacit (and sometimes not-so-tacit) gender bias was probably the principal cause behind her not gaining the UFW presidency after Chavez’s death, eventually leaving the union altogether to pursue her own, more diverse, interests of advocacy .
Many of the events depicted in here unfolded amid the backdrop (and with the support of) other, interrelated social-justice movements of the ’60s and ’70s, most notably Chicano Power and Women’s Liberation. Though Huerta herself was a model of female empowerment — often to the irritation of foes, as well as to the regret of the husbands and children from whom she was frequently absent — she was curiously slow at first to embrace the cause of empowerment. A close friendship with Gloria Steinem, among other factors, soon changed her thinking.
“Dolores” crams a great deal of information, themes, and diverse archival materials into a sharp, cogent whole, tied together by latter-day interviews with Huerta, family members, and esteemed colleagues/supporters from Steinem to Hillary Clinton, Angela Davis, Luis Valdez and Art Torres. (Detractors are only heard in TV news clips.)
Yet it feels a bit inorganic when Bratt can’t restraint himself from a celebratory climactic montage of people dancing, based on the thin pretext that Huerta once dreamed of being a professional dancer. Still, you can forgive him for wanting to communicate a sense of joyful gratitude, even if the object of his thanks maintains a single-minded focus that’s pretty much all business, all the time.