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This country needs another Cesar Chavez
larazafour30 March 2014
This movie was as accurate and as realistic as it could be when packing many years of struggle into 100 minutes. There are many lessons to be learned from La Causa. I just hope that young people see it, learn from it and connect it to today's struggles.

Some uninformed people may feel that Michael Pena's acting is weak..that couldn't be further from the truth. Pena portrayed Cesar the way he was...soft-spoken and undramatic. That was the amazing thing.. Cesar Chavez was driven by his passion for justice. He was not a politician. He was not an eloquent public speaker. Yet he inspired millions to boycott, march, strike, struggle because his cause was so moral, so real, so grass roots.
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Hollywood Critics have it all wrong..
goodfella8794 April 2014
Firstly, I disagree with the external critic reviews that bring the overall rating of the film down very much. Unfortunately, these are the criticisms that will keep Hollywood from investing in future endeavors that symbolize the Latino/Social Justice/Consciousness-Inducing narratives that the public desperately needs.

I work in the immigrant social justice movement and I work closely with a lot of farm worker justice orgs, including Chavez's UFW. I understand that there are contexts missing and that there were a lot of things at stake during that particular movement, but I'm more aware of the fact that it would be hard for the general public and the folks that really need to go and watch this film to understand the greater context and be moved by the politics that plagued the social advocates and continue to plague our movement today.

I also took my Spanish-speaking, first generation immigrant family to watch this film. They are not involved in any of my work but some of them have worked on the fields as guest workers, etc. I was glad to see that they were moved and even brought to tears by the simplicity of the film and that they appreciated that someone was acknowledging their struggle. At the end of the day, the film was entertaining, well acted, and it served its purpose to educate and inspire people like my family.
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Excellent Biopic on an important Civil Rights and Labor Leader
JustCuriosity15 March 2014
Cesar Chavez was very warmly received during its North American Premiere at Austin's SXSW Film where it won one of the audience awards. Director Diego Luna has done an excellent job in bringing this important and often poorly understood civil right and labor leader to life for a new generation. Michael Pena delivers his best acting performance to date as he really seems to capture the essence of Chavez. The film is reminiscent of other films about leading social organizers such as Milk which is also set in California in about the same time period. The film focuses on the major events of his organizing including the boycott of grapes which eventually forced the grape growers to reach an agreement with the United Farm Workers (UFW). The film also emphasizes his dedication to the cause of non-violence and his efforts to work across ethnic lines. While all such films are imperfect vehicles for encapsulating an individual's life, I felt this one did solid job of capturing the spirit of Cesar Chavez. It also showed the difficulties his work caused for his family. I think this film could be very valuable as an educational tool for teaching young people about the legacy of Cesar Chavez. I hope that it is gains some popularity with mainstream audiences.
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History is Make One Step at a Time
ez_briz26 March 2014
Director Diego Luna's picture does more than recount historic events or an epic period in our nation's history. It is more than a moving—and true—David versus Goliath story.

Cesar Chavez the film does portray the classic battle between farm workers and one of California's richest industries. But it also captures the personal hardships and sacrifices made by Cesar and his family, and by so many other families.

And it captures the spirit and humanity and complexity of a man who, in Cesar's words, taught ordinary people to do extraordinary things—and in so doing inspired millions of others from all walks of life to social and political activism.
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Great Movie, Inspirational, Educational, Entertaining
chavezmoviejc26 March 2014
The Cesar Chavez movie is a great film. It is very inspirational as it explores the hardships and triumphs of organizing those who are most underrepresented in out nation. This movie is not only entertaining, but a very important educational piece of our nation's history and our world history. The movie keeps you interested with drama, moments that make you smile, moments of sadness, moments that keep you wanting to know what happens next, and moments that make you want to go out and organize for peace, equality, and social justice. This film is a great tool to be used for students to learn about Cesar Chavez, for families to understand who picks the food on their table, and for people around the world who want to make this world a better place.
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Pumped Reviews: Chávez was Not a Proponent of Illegal Immigration.
Teachem8 July 2014
As of this writing, FIVE of the "Reviewers" here NEVER rated a movie before the Cesar Chavez (2014) movie release. They apparently had an interest in the outcome. Suspect is their desire to see that "civil rights of undocumented workers" are misplaced in the heroism of César Chávez. This will goad many Americans to respond. In addition, the movie came off a bit dry possibly because the actors who knew enough about Chávez (e.g., Pena) realized the writers were off point. In real life, César had enough documented migrants, and the supply of workers were much greater than the demand.

César and his brother Richard often caught Illegals on their properties, loaded them into a pickup truck, dropped them back into Mexico, and told them never to return until they had documentation. Cesar considered the Illegals "scabs" and a host of other expletives. He had this disdain because it threatened his Civil Rights movement for documented labor of Mexican descent, threatened his relationship with the Union, and to quell the over supply of underpaid workers. César knew the Illegal threatened the success of his activism and Civil Rights movement, and he urged documented Mexican-Americans to register and vote. (Sources: The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography, March 25, 2014; and, "Hall of Honor Inductee César Chávez." U.S. Department of Labor, June 18, 2014).

In other words César Chávez was to the Mexican-American, as Martin Luther King was to the African-American, —except that César incorporated fair wages into his Civil Rights activism and Union relationships. Unfortunately, the movie doesn't fully develop this message because it had some innuendos that Mr. Chávez was okay with border jumpers for hire. He'd roll over in his grave to find out that less than "8% of Illegal aliens work in the fields," and the rest are in U.S. communities either working a job, or collecting benefits. (Source: U.S. Dept. of Justice, 2005).

For whatever reason, Hollywood having made previous movies of Chávez is still bent on blurring the lines between "undocumented workers" and "Illegal aliens." César was not okay with the Illegal alien worker, and until Hollywood gets it right it remains an unfair depiction of this man's pride of Mexican-American heritage. However, the movie did have some good aspects of advocating fair wages, better working conditions, power of hunger strikes and boycotts, and the non-violent nature of César Chávez to bring about fantastic changes. We've seen this sporadically in the past brought about in no less than three other movies, and this film brings nothing new to the table, —especially NOT addressing the immigration issues at a time in history when the release of this film is suspect. Accordingly, a lower score is just until Hollywood stops trying to rewrite history through its admissions and omissions.
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Cesar Chaves, a film to open and inspire the heart
michael-963-31694531 March 2014
We live on the edge of a time when mass movements could once again become decisive. Cesar Chaves, Diego Luna's latest film, reminds us that heart is what empowers people to overcome injustice.

Luna has picked a fabulous cast and a respectable script that brings to life the immense story of a very intense struggle to give farmworkers the basic right to organize. Filmed where the real events took place, Luna captures the stark,windswept and washed out beauty of the vast Southern San Joaquin Valley. He shows us the faces of the people who toil so that we might live. Through a strong performance by John Malkovich, Luna captures the patriarchal mentality that allows one to exploit others to build wealth. This sparks outrage and one is moved to identify with the Chaves and the small brave band that he led.

Michael Pena as Chaves is believable and endearing because the methodical, measured intensity of the man comes through and when moments of rage and deep emotion well up in his character the contrast is riveting. You understand why people followed. But it is the women that I found most interesting, particularly America Ferrera as Helen Fabela Chaves. And without Dolores Huerta (Rosario Dawsom) he could not have succeeded. She was the more politically adept. It was the women in his life that empowered him to be great.

The film is not flawless and the 101 minute running time is the key problem. The story is simply too big given the number of compelling characters and the complexities of the real events. I longed to understand more about his son, his brother, the growers, Huerta and Helen. I would have appreciated seeing more of the power struggles among leaders, which must exist within any movement.

But overall, I am pleased that Luna, his cast and crew respectably brought to the cinema this very American story that helps me to remember why I love this country. Social movements do make progress despite darker forces because valiant hearts bonded by the vision of a better world do not give up.
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Powerful Biopic
larrys328 July 2014
I've seen some pro critics call this film boring, and although it might have had 1 or 2 slow spots, I found it overall to be a powerful biopic of the iconic union organizer and civil rights advocate Cesar Chavez.

Michael Pena gives a fine performance as Chavez here, as the movie focuses on his early days as a farm worker organizer, in the 1960's in California, to his eventual negotiations with the powerful farm growers of the time. America Ferrera also ably portrays Chavez's wife Helen, who is equally dedicated to their cause. Additionally, there's a strong supporting cast which includes Rosario Dawson, John Malkovich, Jacob Vargas, and John Ortiz.

The biopic intersperses well actual film footage of the time, but we only get a glimpse of the real Chavez, who died in 1993 at the age of 66, towards the end of the movie. I thought the film portrayed well the conflicts and tensions you would expect between the farm workers and the powerful growers, the police, and certain politicians.

During an effective grape boycott called by Chavez and his supporters, then Governor Ronald Reagan is shown publicly eating grapes and calling the boycott "immoral". Also, President Richard Nixon tried to influence the export of grapes to European markets to help the growers, but strong European unions in support of Chavez crushed that idea.

To editorialize a bit here, I find it so ironic that some 50 years later, we seem to be fighting the same battles that Chavez fought, with the rights of unions to organize and collectively bargain. While it is true that along the way some unions got greedy and went too far in their demands, I think that history has clearly shown that many corporations left to their own devices will squeeze their workers in pay and benefits unless there's some push back from organizations like unions.

Overall, I thought this movie was very well presented by director Diego Luna and screenwriters Keir Pearson and Timothy J. Sexton. It's an important story that remains, as mentioned, so timely to this day.
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Not only is the movie very well made and acted it is also inspiring and is one of the better biopics of the last few years.
cosmo_tiger21 July 2014
"If we show the world their abuse, greed and brutality then our voice will be heard and responded to." After being raised and working in the fields since he was 8 Cesar Chavez (Peña) has seen enough of the abuse of the workers. After realizing nothing was going to change on its own he decides to step up and become a leader. His goal is to form a union and get every worker an honest wage. What seems like an easy thing to do is met with resistance from almost everyone. His non-violent protests slowly begin to become embraced by not only his fellow workers but American citizens as well. Going in to this movie I knew next to nothing about the real man. My favorite genre of movie is the biopic, it's almost better (for me) to not know as much about the person that way not only am I not expecting anything but I am also not disappointed when they leave things out. I say all that because I can't speak to how accurate the movie is but what I can say is that I really enjoyed this. Not only is the movie very well made and acted it is also inspiring and you really become angry watching what the company he is protesting against does to discredit and discount his stance. Again I can't speak to how accurate the movie is but what the movie does do is inspire and make you wonder why the corporate heads waited so long to even talk to him. That said it also makes you wonder if this happened today if the reactions would be the same. Without getting too political my guess would be yes. Corporate greed never goes away, it only grows. Overall, a great and inspiring movie that is one of the better biopics of the last few years. I give this a high B+.
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Cesar Chavez film reveals aspects of Mexican and Filipino History in the United States that should have been told decades ago
iwillservemypeople28 July 2014
I was in awe when I viewed this movie. Finally a film that brought Cesar Chavez's story to life. I am from Phoenix, Arizona and often heard stories of Cesar Chavez. I even met some of his family members and supporters while working at Chicanos Por La Causa but still had no idea how much violence he and his party encountered. This film angered me and brought me tears on more than one occasion. I have viewed this film so far four times to take in all of it. This movie touched me and hit home since my mother is Filipino/Mexican-American. I did not expect to see Filipinos in this film at all. I had no idea that that they were part of the movement. To see the harsh treatment and environments that my ancestors encountered enraged me. I would have never known about these acts if I did not read about it in a book. Since I was not moved to read about Cesar Chavez I am glad that this film was made otherwise I would have no knowledge of this part of my history.Due to this movie I have more respect for Cesar Chavez and his supporters and their efforts. I also see why President Kennedy is known for being a great leader. He to was an intelligent and amazing man. I am a former Civil Rights Compliance Officer/Investigator for the Arizona Attorney General's Officer and marched in several Immigration and Dr. Martin Luther King Marches with a background in History, Ethnic Studies,and Law so I am thrilled that this movie brought Cesar Chavez,Mexican-Americans, Filipino-Americans plight in the United States story to life. It also demonstrates how powerful law, faith,community, knowledge, and unity is. Wonderful film looks like a lot of research was put into it. I am also happy that some of my favorite actresses are in it Rosario Dawson and America Ferrera. I love that another one of my favorite actors Donte Basco's brother Darion Basco starred in this film too. Excited to see actors of color becoming more visible in American Films. I learned so much by watching this film more power to the writers,entire cast, and crew. Job well done! I will most definitely be buying this DVD and also sending some as gifts to family members.
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Cesar Chavez was a great movie!
czamora51928 March 2014
Cesar Chavez was a great movie! I highly recommend it for every person concerned with the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Democracy. It shows how one man and a non-violent movement can create social change, and that is true democracy. It was wonderful and inspiring! America Ferrera was brilliant and powerful in this role. I think this has been her best performance to date. Rosario Dawson is strong and smart, a wonderful role for her. I can't even begin to describe the brilliance behind Michael Peña's performance. He truly brought the character to life and was the beacon of light for this movie. I encourage everyone to go see this movie.
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the real story, not a Hollywood package. I wish it were longer
fishfeet-831-82648028 August 2014
This movie covers so much really intense stuff, so quickly, it's almost hard to sink your teeth into. It's a great way to get a quick and easy understanding of the real events that happened in California and how Cesar came to play such an important role. I wish the film had actually been longer, with more time to develop the depth of characters and the layers of issues. But just like Chavez was in life -- a humble man who didn't want all the attention on himself -- this movie is also like that. It's a humble movie with no big stars, and it doesn't try to be big and glamorous or spectacular. It just tries to tell what happened. And the facts are more interesting than anything Hollywood could add. So some have criticized it for feeling too much like a documentary, but that's what I really liked about it. It felt like it was just what happened, and not some big Hollywood version of it. I would have just liked to have lingered in the smallness of it longer. And I wish they went on to tell about the rest of the life of this amazing, unlikely, understated hero. I hope for a sequel, or another go at it that captures more of the spirit of the man and the movement, as well as the events. But definitely see this one!
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Superb Biopic of Great American Labor Leader
michael_the_nermal7 April 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Some reviewers do not like that the actor playing Chavez plays him as a rather bland everyman as opposed to a great and charismatic leader. Truth be told, this portrayal doesn't bother me. Chavez's skills as a labor organizer come more from dogged determination and perseverance in the face of overwhelming odds, as opposed to a strong, magnetic personality. Chavez's strengths, as shown in the movie, is that the man simply did not give up in the face of injustice. I think the way Chavez was portrayed did justice to one of the most famous labor leaders in American history. The filmmakers do an excellent job in making the injustices migrant farm workers went through palpable. There is little romanticization of Chavez the man or the United Farm Workers, and the film is commendable for showing that his methods were controversial. For example, his holier-than-thou approach with the rank-and-file in the fields did cause inter-union conflict, and his apparently noble aim of using nonviolence as a tool for labor is not completely unquestionable, especially in the face of violent opposition from the growers. The film is limited in scope and straightforward in the way it presents its narrative, which focuses on Chavez's most famous fight, the Delano Grape Strike and Boycott. The audience is seldom lost, and gets a pretty good understanding of how the events played through.

Pluses include that the film does at least show that the United Farm Workers was a multi-ethnic union, in that it included both Hispanic and Filipino laborers, and that both were equally responsible for leading the fight against the growers (one scene shows the flag of the Philippines across from the Mexican flag). The film does devote equal time between the farmworkers and the growers, and shows that the growers, too, could find strength in union---although this plot seems rather undeveloped. John Malkovich does a superb job as a grower determined to fight to the bitter end. Chavez is portrayed not as a messianic figure or even a larger-than-life man like Abraham Lincoln, but as a simple union activist who had as his main life's goal justice for the working man. Nothing in this film is "epic"; it is really a simple story told well. "Cesar Chavez" most closely resembles another movie about the struggle between workers and their employers: "Matewan", by John Sayles. Both films are raw in depicting the fight between unions and employers; unlike "Matewan," "Cesar Chavez" does not feel as bleak, and, for those who enjoy large doses of cynicism in their movies, will be disappointed with the latter film, as it is far more hopeful in its tone.

This film is not without its flaws. I would have loved to have seen at least fifteen minutes devoted to Cesar Chavez's back-story as a union leader: how did he get into leading unions? Why did he feel the need to devote his life to migrant workers? How did he meet fellow union activists like Dolores Huerta? This could all have helped in fleshing out his character before we got to the main plot. The two minutes (or less) of exposition at the beginning was not sufficient as backstory. The film tries to balance its depiction of Chavez the labor leader with Chavez the family man. His turbulent relationship with his son is fairly undeveloped: the film could have benefited by spending more time on this subplot, or significantly less. As it stands, the subplot with the son who has problems with an uncommunicative father and with bigotry is rather choppily presented. There are also claims that the film is not true to history, particularly with the way Filipino members of the UFW have been seemingly relegated the background. I didn't think this was apparent, but it might have behooved filmmakers to have devoted a bit more time to the Filipino contribution to story of the Delano Strike and Boycott, particularly if they had any conflict with Chavez's methods. Lastly, this film, like the arguably better "Matewan", is highly polemic. The movie blatantly takes sides with who's "good" and who's "bad" on the political spectrum. Conservative viewers, who may like Chavez's lack of radicalism and his devotion to religion, will not like the persons this movie presents as "villains" (albeit unseen villains, except in historical newsreel footage).

In all, the film is a well-done story about an important part of American history. I highly recommend it. For comparison, watch "Matewan" on Netflix to get a better view of how American labor history is depicted on film.
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Movie in documentary format.
larry-962-9112131 March 2014
Having just seen the movie and having met the man many years ago,I can say that the film was better than most of the reviews I have read. This was a very humble man that saw an injustice and corrected it. He didn't line his own pockets like most Union Leaders have. I would have preferred to see more of his upbringing so that we know who influenced him the most. Nonetheless, this film (docudrama) should be required viewing in public schools throughout California and other states where farm workers supply our nation and the world with much of our produce. A must see movie if you want to understand what the migrant workers were up against in the 60's and 70's.
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Decent Enough Biopic
MovieHoliks12 August 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I finally got around to watching this biopic off Netflix of UFW (United Food Workers) organizer, Cesar Chavez. I was thinking there had to have already been one made about him, but nope; this is the first dramatic film- only documentaries so far. Michael Pena is decent enough in the role. I found it interesting, reading at Wikipedia, that prior to taking the part, he knew very little about Chavez, in spite of the fact like his grandparents had been field workers

I see so many biopics, and a lot of them are real schnooze-fests. But this one managed to keep my attention the whole way through. It goes through his battles with the big grocery store and vegetable/fruit chains, and eventually taking him all the way to Europe to organize.

John Malkovich (who also produced) plays the owner of one of the big corps he is fighting. I found it interesting Malkovich produced this movie- since he is a known conservative I think-?? I believe he championed the cause since- out of his mouth- it was "the right thing to do"-?? Well, good for him. And, as for the film, I would recommend to those with an interest in the subject, otherwise go catch one of the thousand other biopics. I do think, however, down the road maybe a more complete biopic of this personal hero of mine will have to get made. Rosario Dawson and America Ferrera ("Ugly Betty") co-star.
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"It's a long walk..."
poe4268 March 2015
When then-candidate Barack Obama proclaimed "Yes, we can," there were people who had no idea that he had co-opted the battle cry of CESAR CHAVEZ; such is the state of "education' in this country. We can't forget what we never know. If you're not familiar with websites like truthdig.org or DemocracyNOW!.org or movetoamend.org or people like Howard Zinn or Thom Hartmann or Mike Papantonio (of ringoffire) or Noam Chomsky or Chris Hedges or Amy Goodman or Juan Gonzalez or Gene Sharp or any of the other REAL Historians of Our Times, you're in The Dark. And names like Cesar Chavez have no meaning for you. You're part of what Elizabeth Kolbert in her book THE SIXTH EXTINCTION says are called the ESPECES PERDUES ("lost species"). "At this point," she writes, "it appears to be, for all intents and purposes, unstoppable." WHY, one wonders? Could it be the constant bombardment of lies and misinformation by the Corporate Media? ("None of the usual constraints of habitat or geography seem to check them," Kolbert writes in a not altogether different context.) Like Gene Sharp (and Ghandi), Chavez chose the path of non-violence- but it was, indeed, "a long walk." It worked- but only for a time. "How can a man starve himself?" someone asks John Malkovitch in CESAR CHAVEZ. "It depends on the man," he replies. "I've lost my way," Pena as Chavez says. "We've ALL lost our way," his brother responds. Indeed. These days, it seems, we're fighting again and again battles that were won long ago. Vigilance is the price of freedom, I guess- but, as Chavez says in the movie: "You can't uneducate someone who's learned how to read."
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A Mexican-American in London
ghost_dog8631 March 2014
Would it be weird to say that "Cesar Chavez" was a laugh riot? Well, for a film which depicts people being beaten and sprayed with pesticides, the script contained tons of laugh out loud lines of dialogue. OK, I'm not sure if that came off as completely insensitive or not, so I'll just move on:

An independent production directed by Mexican actor/filmmaker Diego Luna, "Cesar Chavez" is an educational partial biography of (you guessed it) Cesar Chavez which chronicles his participation in the California (and abroad) civil rights campaigns during the 1960's, which addressed fair wages and better working conditions for migrant farm workers, his infamous 25 day hunger strike and the UFWA (United Farm Workers of America) grape boycott.

While I did find myself really enjoying this movie, "Cesar Chavez" is yet another example of a PG-13 film which attempts to depict a rated-R snapshot of American history. On a technical level, Luna does display above average directorial chops and his film is overall more historically weighty than something like last year's "42" (a PG-13 movie which glossed over many of the more violent atrocities of racial intolerance in the 1940's) it is obvious that Luna does pulls some punches in an attempt to make the Cesar Chavez story accessible to a wider audience.

There are good biopics and there are bad biopics. The downfall of many biopics is that they take fascinating characters and simply tell their story, while failing to bring their world to life, failing to spark interest with an engaging back-story or failing to build an emotional connection with audiences. And while those types of biopics may be interesting to some, they usually alienate those who didn't live through the events or may not be familiar with said character. Luna and Michael Pena, who plays Chavez, seem to understand this, as they come together to depict a Chavez that is completely 3 dimensional and complex. That said, Luna does not escape my praise without scrutiny, as he and screenwriters Keir Pearson (Hotel Rwanda) and Timothy J. Sexton (Children of Men) fail to give Chavez much of a back-story; so much so that it feels as though "Cesar Chavez" is missing its entire first act (the story of how Chavez started down the civil rights road to begin with).

Pena's performance stands as one of the more surprisingly pleasant aspects of this production. He nails the Chavez look and mannerisms, and when he speaks he sounds like a civil rights leader. And during the fasting sequences, Pena looks like a man who hasn't eaten for a substantial amount of time. Although quite enjoyable in other movies such as "End of Watch" and "30 Minutes or Less", his role as Chavez is by far my favorite.

Final Thought: This shouldn't be a movie which only resonates with those who lived through the events, but if you have no idea who Chavez was going into this, for you the timeline may get a little choppy in the final act and questions may be raised about Rosario Dawson's purpose in this movie since Dolores Huerta (a woman who played a massive role in La Causa) is hardly referenced here. Then again, if you are a Californian and don't know who Cesar Chavez was, you should be ashamed of yourself to begin with. After recently sitting through a stretch of shockingly below average movies depicting the Mexican/Mexican-American/Chicano struggle (Filly Brown, For Greater Glory and A Better Life) I will say that I was quite entertained by this good, not great, biopic which salutes this important man and equally important moment in relatively recent California history.
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The personal and grassroots organizational struggles of an extraordinary American
Kansas-531 March 2014
This fast paced film is simply riveting. Producer Diego Luna cast Michael Peña in the lead. Peña honestly portrays one of the most important leaders in American labor struggles. John Malkovich joins Luna, co-producing as well as in acting in a villainous role. He exquisitely plays a fictionalized composite, an exploitative Machiavellian grower, comfortable with manipulating family as well as local and national public officials to frustrate Chavez's organizing,and not above promoting lethal violence when it suited his agenda.

The movie tracks the dangerous and demanding path taken by Chavez in the decades it took for him and his compañeros to win dignity and living wages for mostly Hispanic and Filipino farm workers. It faithfully displays his courage, religious devotion, acumen and self sacrifice, and the alliances he built, as well as the political and public relations solidarity and coups necessary for success.

Only so much can be covered in a film of this length, but it fairly faithfully tracks his intense commitment to "la causa," and how that conflicted with his competing desires to be a father, husband and provider. It touches on his personal sacrifices that extended to long fasts and marches of hundreds of miles, and a willingness to be subjected to brutal physical and political attacks meant to defeat his efforts, but never abandoning Ghandian non-violence. His career, though longer due to Martin Luther King's youthful assassination, overlaps King's considerably in era, unwavering commitment, allies and methods.

Given the magnitude of the substantial task to portray such a major and complex figure and movement, the development of other important characters suffers. They include his brother Richard (played by Jacob Vargas), his career-long ally and foil, activist Dolores Huerta (Rosario Dawson) who has outlived and outperformed most of her contemporaries, and the late, long time United Farm Workers powerhouse attorney/negotiator, Jerry Cohen, though all deliver strong performances.

Absent from the screenplay are the equally demanding lettuce strike and most of the frustrations with the Teamsters Union and the UFW's eventual settlement with them.

This film recapitulates an essential part of late 20th Century American political and social history that legitimately deserves a wider audience than it will likely receive.
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Biopic of an almost forgotten civil rights leader
t-dooley-69-38691619 July 2015
This is the story of Cesar Chavez who took on the planters and growers in the southern US in order to end exploitation of immigrant workers. On his way he made a lot of sacrifices but so did his family – he had eight children and the film captures some of the familial strife that he underwent too.

We also have the parts played by numerous politicians from Bobby Kennedy, Richard Nixon and Ronald 'I don't use hair dye' Regan. This could be called one sided in that it is pretty black and white in its approach, however it has a genuine feel of authenticity and seems to match what I could find out about the man. That is the factual stuff; the emotional is obviously part poetic invention.

Starring Michael Pena ('End of Watch' and 'Fury') who puts in a solid performance and with able support from, amongst others, John Malkovich. This is a film that does not require very much analysis and you can just kick back and enjoy it. The real strength here is the message of unity and education and how that can make a change for the better. I for one really enjoyed it and irrespective of your political hue there will be something here for most people.
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Noble subject, imperfect presentation
Buddy-5118 December 2014
Not surprising, given its subject matter, the movie "Cesar Chavez" is both inspiring and depressing in roughly equal measure - depressing because it portrays a society sadly built on the exploitation of the disenfranchised and powerless, and inspiring because it reminds us of the power of both the individual and the collective to change the course of history for the better.

In terms of structure and execution, this is a fairly standard biopic of the man whose name has become virtually synonymous with collective bargaining and civil rights. The movie begins when Chavez is already a family man, working as an organizer for a Latino civil rights group, the Community Service Organization. We're briefly informed of the fact that Chavez was born in Yuma, Arizona, but that, as a child, he was forced to migrate to California when his family lost their farm in the depths of the Depression. The trauma of being ripped away from the land he loved and compelled to work as a laborer in the field for virtually no money never left Chavez and, indeed, it became the defining force of his life. Thus, he returned to those fields years later for the purpose of organizing his fellow workers into a union (eventually to be known as United Farm Workers), taking on the massive power structure that, through a combination of greed and racism, kept them virtually enslaved to their masters.

What strikes one most while watching "Cesar Chavez" is the tremendous courage displayed not only by Chavez and his family but all the workers in standing up to the verbal abuse, physical violence, racism, jail time and threatened loss of employment that was regularly thrown at them in an effort to get them to back down and accept their inhumane working conditions without question or complaint. When striking didn't get them what they wanted, they turned toward mass marches and boycotts, the latter of which was particularly effective in winning the general public to their side and eventually bringing the growers to the bargaining table and ultimately acceding to their demands - no easy task given that many of the local politicians, law enforcement officials and judges were already in the pocket of the wealthy growers. Luckily, the movement also boasted some powerful allies from around the country, i.e., politicians like Senator Robert Kennedy and the United Auto Workers Union. The movie also captures the fact that Chavez frequently had to contend with members of his own group who often felt that passive resistance was inefficient in achieving their goals and wanted to employ more direct and violent methods in taking on their oppressors.

Like many movies that attempt to capture the totality of a famous person's life, "Cesar Chavez" often falls short of the mark. Because the movie's running time is so limited, certain aspects of Chavez' life inevitably get short shrift. The relationships with his wife and long time partner, Helen (well played by America Ferrera), and with his oldest son are sketchy at best. Famed union activist Dolores Huerta (Rosario Dawson), who worked beside Chavez in many of his endeavors, tends to get shuffled into the background a bit more than is warranted given the prominent role she played, an obvious casualty to the limits of time. Michael Pena bears an impressive physical resemblance to Chavez, but he lacks the fire-in-the-belly necessary to convey the true essence of a man who inspired millions and changed the world. John Malkovich, on the other hand, effectively portrays an unsympathetic grape-grower without resorting to overstatement and caricature.

Writer Keir Pearson and director Diego Luna faced a daunting task in bringing Chavez' story to the screen. That they only half succeeded is perhaps more inevitable than it is regrettable given the self-imposed constraints of the medium they were working in (a TV miniseries might have given the subject more justice). But anyone with an interest in Chavez in particular and the fight for human rights in general should definitely watch this film.
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Nonsense BS. Chavez fought to keep out illegal immigrants and organized beatings of them
random-7077812 January 2019
Read any standard biography of Chavez to learn what nonsense this film is purveying. Chavez fought against illegal immigration
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deloudelouvain14 December 2015
Again the score on IMDb is way too low for this biography. The movie deserves a way higher rating then it actually has. Michael Peña played the role of Cesar Chavez brilliantly. From the first minute until the end you are completely absorbed by the story of this civil rights fighter. A non-violent fighter that deserves a lot of respect for what he has done for the poor, fighting the system and the rich elite in this corrupted world. It's thanks to men like him that poor people get their voice heard. Too bad the world has not more men like Cesar Chavez because we seriously need more of those. It's time that the rich become lesser rich and the poor lesser poor.
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A Simple, Basic, and Timeless Truth
LeonLouisRicci1 October 2014
A Bare Bones Movie about the Famous Labor Leader that isn't Interested in Details or Minutia, just the Fact that Big Business (you know the Free Market) that Left to its Own Greedy Devices will Repress, Underpay, Exploit, De-Humanize, Employ Children, Withhold Benefits, and Simply do Anything They Can to Make More Money on the Backs of People Without Power.

So it is Really Unnecessary to get into the Weeds. This is Basic Human Rights. The Bill of Rights and All that Jazz. It Seems that there Still Remains a Clear and Present Danger in this Land of Opportunity to this Day as the Unions are Vilified and the Trickle Down Theory of Ronald Reagan (his insensitivity and inhumanity are touched on in the Film), is Still Around and Sold as the "Rising Tide that Lifts All Boats".

This is a No-Brainer and Counter-Mined and Pontificated Against Every Day by Pundits, Politicians, and Big Corp that have a Lot of Power but Very Few Brains and come Equipped with a Total Lack of Empathy. They have Undergone, Somewhere at Sometime, a "Cremation of Care".

Every so often there is a Need, Once Again, for this Type of Bumper Sticker ("Yes We Can") Sloganism just to Remind and Tweak Folks of the Perpetual Inconvenient Truth that Regular People just Want Decent Pay for a Decent Days Work and are Not Receiving it. No More Intellectualizing is Needed and No More Attention to Detail is Necessary. Just a Wake Up Call. Anybody Home?
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For every struggle there is a leader, and for the farm workers of California that leader was Cesar Chavez.
Amari-Sali6 April 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Admittedly, though the name of Cesar Chavez was certainly familiar, was drew me to watching this was mostly Rosario Dawson and America Ferrera who, outside of the occasional appearance on The Good Wife, I haven't seen much of since Ugly Betty was canceled/ ended. But it should be noted that while they are participants in the film, the star is Michael Pena who plays Cesar Chavez.

Characters & Story

Cesar Chavez (Michael Pena) is a man born in Arizona to a family which formerly owned a farm, but when the depression hit his family lost their farm in pursuit of jobs they assumed would be in California. Unfortunately, they weren't the only ones with hopes to find work, so they were left with a bit of dashed hopes, but a spirit which remained unbroken. Something which would help Chavez in his later years.

Which leads to the heart of the story which deals with Chavez's rise as a civil rights leader, with assistance from his wife Helen Chavez (America Ferrera) and, the woman who is noted as co-founder, Dolores Huerta (Rosario Dawson). The three combined try to organize farmers who are paid, at most, $2 a day while the farm owners, of which a prominent one is played by John Malkovich, rather try to seek undocumented immigrants or export to Europe in order to bypass coming to a negotiation table.

However, even with the farm owners, President Nixon, Governor Reagan, and the death of Robert Kennedy working against Chavez and the United Farm Workers, one major battle in the war for justice was accomplished.


In what you could take as a backhanded compliment, I felt Cesar Chavez more so aimed to educate, or provide an overview, of Cesar Chavez's work than present this as an entertaining biopic which wanted the type of performances which elicited accolades. I say this because everyone comes off sort of dry, and no one really seeks to standout in their performances. Even Pena, as Chavez, feels very toned down to the point I'm not sure if I'm just used to grandeur, charismatic performances, or if Chavez and his team were just not as lively as most figures we get to meet through film. I will say though, I quite liked the use of interlacing archival footage with the story giving it the type of feel which made it feel like you were more so in the moment than watching a film.


With that said though, at a little under two hours, I must admit the film really does feel like something you'd watch in school and would fall asleep on. I would probably account this to the fact it really doesn't pull much out in terms of bells and whistles. I mean, yes it shows the brutality of the farm workers daring to stand up to almost plantation styled farm owners, but outside of those scenes where the farmers, including Chavez, and the owners are showing their passion for or against the cause, it is quite boring. Also, Pena to me may play the role well, but being that he is the focal point of the movie, it is hard to say he is as enrapturing as Idris Elba was in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, if you want to compare one civil rights leader biopic to another.

Then, what makes things worse, is if you do a bit of research on the film, you start to wonder why Dolores, pretty much isn't allowed to really get into the action. I mean, maybe researching her and Chavez's life may show that she may have been more behind the scenes, but something about the way she was first presented in the film makes it seem like they downplayed her role, as well as Helen's, in the film. And considering they did show Chavez as a bit of a machismo at times, perhaps this was meant to be symbolism?

Overall: TV Viewing

Like with Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, the movie is good in terms of giving you a basic overview, or rather introduction, so you can hopefully be intrigued enough to do your own research, but entertainment wise it doesn't have a high value. Pena, be it because of how Chavez was as a person or just how he wanted to portray Chavez, doesn't call for your attention, and no one really does. The acts of violence and the struggle are what keep your eyes glued to the screen, and naturally these moments are only meant to show the peaks of when the movement was making progress. However, before and after those moments are a rather drag to sit through, so at best I can say this is worth TV viewing.
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A somewhat distorted view of Chavez
bigcodyjack1 April 2014
The movie in its way distorts the Cesar's Chavez and his impacts. No doubt Chavez was a charismatic figure and because of that Big Labor used him to create the UFW. Chavez was Labor's puppet. He did what they wanted him to do. He was non-violent because Labor did not want violence. To Big Labor violence was something that belonged to the commies and Labor didn't want violence to characterize their efforts to create another cash cow in a farm workers union. So Labor manipulated Chavez and because he saw the benefits of being Labor's stooge, he went along with it. Not that he didn't also believe that it would benefit his beloved farm workers too. Without the backing of big labor, Chavez would have gone nowhere. He was poorly educated, almost an illiterate itinerant. But to his credit he listened to Big Labor and he succeeded. It was Big Labor that had the power in Sacramento and with the government, not Chavez. However, Chavez's claims of success are somewhat dimmed by the fact that while it successfully with the help of Big Labor did get some reforms enacted into law, members of the UFW get socked for dues that support well paid union executives that have in the end delivered little for the workers. And many farm workers still don't belong to the UFW which they do not see any reason to belong to.

Unfortunately, the movie is very selective in what it portrays of Chavez so as not to diminish his image. Hopefully someday someone will write the true story of Chavez and bring it to the screen so the public can form its own judgment concerning his importance to Latinos.
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