The labor and civil rights crusade of the 1960s and ’70s that lifted up American agricultural workers in particular and Latinos more broadly still has its work cut out — low wages and immigration laws that both exploit and punish continue to fester. Still, Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, with the 1962 establishment of the United Farm Workers and later the famous grape boycott and strike, eventually ended many of the most heinous abuses laborers faced by forcing politicians, growers, and Americans in general to recognize the workers’ humanity. Though the movement depended on Huerta’s ability to forge ties and persuade doubters, and though she stood as its co-founder, she missed much of the recognition — most people remember only Chavez. Peter Bratt masterfully corrects the record, with the help of many of Huerta’s eleven children, civil rights luminaries, and ample footage revealing a charismatic, complicated woman who persevered — despite the disruption to her family and swirling disapproval of her personal life. Best of all, an 87-year-old Huerta is still here to describe her experiences, including how her understanding of civil rights eventually came to include feminism (not a wholly welcome development among some of her compatriots). The doc demonstrates how thoroughly Huerta embodies her ’60s-era rallying cry, (that slogan borrowed by the 2008 Obama campaign): “Si se puede!” “Yes we can!” Bonus: Carlos Santana, an executive producer, contributes to the film’s engaging soundtrack.
Directed by Peter Bratt
Opens September 1, IFC Center