Chicano history comes to life in “Cesar Chavez” film

By Jesus Figueroa 

Diego Luna’s “Cesar Chavez” brings the historical struggle of the Chicano farm worker’s movement to the big screen in a grand film.

The story based on true events keeps a real humanized version of Chavez, making the struggle he goes through relatable to not just Chicanos but to everyone as well.

Chavez, played by Michael Peña, moves back to Delano, from working at an office job in Los Angeles, to help the farm workers who are being exploited with long hours of work for pay that cannot sustain a family.

Peña does an excellent job of keeping the character of Chavez grounded and impactful. His performance stayed strong throughout.

Chavez takes his kids and wife Helen Chavez, played by America Ferrera, along with him. His oldest son continues to stay mad at his father throughout the story as he does not grasp what his father is trying to accomplish, or the reason behind his hard work.

Ferrera is phenomenal portraying a strong courageous woman who was as every bit as brave as Cesar Chavez. Her presence is strong on screen and emotions touch the audiences giving a reason to connect and care for Helen Chavez.

The story touches on the important topics of racism and poverty.

Sheriff Glen, played by Michael Cudlitz, not only stands in the way of the movement but takes money from the farm owners to over look illegal acts against the people in the movement.

Cudlitz stays at an easy path, playing his character as just a follow orders type guy. His performance is prominent but doesn’t seem to really do much to make him stand out.

The struggle seems to be against a single powerful farm owner Bogdanovitch, played by John Malkovich, who stands powerful above all other owners.

Malkovich plays a smart, powerful and quick witted man whose presence gives the film a true David and Goliath feel. Malkovich treats his role in a manner which complements Peña’s portrayal of Chavez.

The telling of the story is through what seems like a letter from Chavez addressed to the people. It gives a structure to tell the story and insight to the mindset of Chavez.

Since it’s based on historical events there are changes but the film keeps true to the purpose behind the actions.

The ending comes with a powerful and emotional realization.

The film as a whole is phenomenal and holds more than a just a Chicano equality message, but a human equality message.

The journey traveled by the Chavez family is depicted in the film and shows more than just a perfect family life. The troublesome path, obstacles and family drama makes the movement personal.

Luna directs a fantastic cast who help audiences with the movement regardless of how the audience identifies themselves.

The film shows the unity it took from Chicanos, Mexicans, Americans and the British.

“Cesar Chavez” opens in theaters this Friday. The film is rated PG-13.

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