DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Cesar Chavez, Blu-ray (2013)

A good documentary on an important American organizer.

Published on August 12, 2014

Cesar Chavez, Blu-ray (2013)

Cast: Michael Pena, America Ferrera, John Malkovich, Rosario Dawson, Wes Bentley
Director: Diego Luna
Studio: Pentelion/ Lionsgate [7/22/14] Blu-ray + Digital HD
Video: 1.85:1 for 16:9 1080p color HD
Audio: English & Spanish DTS-HD MA 5.1, DD 2.0
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Extras: “The Making of Cesar Chavez” featurette, trailer, previews
Length: 102 minutes
Rating: ***1/2

While any documentary on Chavez is probably a good thing and should be seen, the general feeling is that this one had a number of faults and sort of “went Hollywood” on the story of Chavez, even though it was shot in Mexico since doing it in the U.S. was too expensive. It’s an interesting film telling the story of Chavez’s start in organizing and what he brought to the poor farmworkers thru a continual fight for his cause.

The film makes his fight for social justice look like a very personal thing, which in one way is true, but some experts on the subject pointed out that Chavez never drove to meetings alone or travelled along and always had helpers with him. I had forgotten how Robert Kennedy had stuck up for Chavez and how the law enforcement figures labeled the union members as Communists. In one scene, trying to answer a sheriff’s questions about Communist connections, Chavez asked his followers what religion they were. They all answered “Catholic.” Chavez then said, “You see, so how could they be Communists?”

There are some good scenes, Pena is a fine actor, and the cinematography is sometimes very lovely. Chavez is shown making several speeches, and showing extreme anger at some of the violence his members did, and critics say he avoided both of these things. The “Making Of…” featurette is worth viewing.

This was a very sincere attempt to tell the story of Chavez, and John Malkovich (who plays one of the grape growers) is to be commended for acting in and being involved in the production. But someone cannot avoid feeling that those that dislike Chavez for whatever reasons would find it rather blah.

—John Sunier




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