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Laramie Movie Scope: Dolores

Documentary about pioneering union founder

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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November 6, 2017 – This documentary about pioneering activist and union organizer Dolores Huerta tells an all-too-familiar story of a vastly talented woman who achieved greatness, despite male opposition, only to be finally kicked aside and forgotten by men in power, because she is a woman.

While Cesar Chavez is rightly remembered as founder of the National Farmworkers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers (UFW), but Dolores Huerta was the co-founder of those same organizations. She also was key player in organizing the Delano grape strike in 1965. She was also the lead negotiator in the workers’ contract that was created after that boycott. Later, Bill O'Reilly of Fox News would say on the air that he'd never heard of her, and most people haven't.

This film is backed by famed musician Carlos Santana (several Santana songs are on the soundtrack) among others. The film is directed by Peter Bratt. His brother, actor Benjamin Bratt (“Doctor Strange”) is a consulting producer. Carlos Santana is an executive producer of this documentary.

This film attempts to highlight the achievements of Dolores Huerta, and to push back against the forces trying to bury her history (the film includes a scene of lawmakers actively removing her name from school history books). The film also discusses criticisms of her, including the fact that some of her seven children were conceived out of wedlock. The film also discusses the fact that because of her political and union organizing activities she spent a vast amount of her time away from her family. In the movie, her children comment on Dolores' prolonged absences.

According to the film, Dolores was an effective lobbyist for farm worker's rights before she formed the National Farmworkers Association with Cesar Chavez. She was an equal partner with Chavez as they worked to organize farm laborers in California, and eventually in Arizona, too. Endless meetings with groups and individuals finally led to a union authorized to negotiate with growers. Not only did the union negotiate for higher wages and better housing, but for an end to worker exposure to deadly pesticides.

The film makes the argument that Dolores was one of the first to associate environmentalism with worker's rights. She also originated the phrase “Sí, se puede” or “Yes, it can be done.” The film includes a clip of President Barack Obama admitting that he borrowed from that phrase for his own campaign slogan of “Yes we can.”

It is not like Dolores has not been recognized in the past. She has received several major awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Eugene V. Debs Foundation Outstanding American Award and an Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights. She was also inducted in the National Women's Hall of Fame. This makes it look pretty bad in the film when politicians in Arizona erase her from school history books.

One of those seen in the movie commenting on Huerta's contributions to society is Hillary Clinton. It is pretty easy to see the similarities between Huerta and Clinton. They have both suffered from some of the same attacks from men and women, and for some of the same reasons. Both of them were knocked down, but not out.

The documentary has a number of good interviews and it includes a lot of interesting information and film clips, but the pace drags. It seems longer than it is, at 95 minutes. It is somewhat repetitive, but it does get its point across. This film rates a C+.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2017 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)