DOLORES — Review by Cate Marquis

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Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the National Farm Workers Union, the person who coined the phrase “Yes, We Can” (“Si Se Puede”), a labor organizer instrumental in leading the 1960s grape boycott, and a social activist for Chicano, Native American and Latinos rights, should be a name everyone knows, as familiar as that of Caesar Chavez, the other co-founder of the National Farm Workers Union. Never heard of Dolores Huerta? Many people haven’t, and that’s the problem the new documentary DOLORES sets out to remedy. Continue reading…

History seems to have a way of writing out both women and people of color, both of which describe Dolores Huerta. This well-made documentary goes a way towards righting that wrong in the case of Huerta. The film is directed by Peter Bratt (brother of Benjamin Bratt, also a consulting producer) and produced by Carlos Santana, who contributes to the vibrant sound track as well.

Huerta is well-known within the Latino, farm labor, and social activist communities, if less so among the general public. The documentary spotlights Huerta’s personal and professional life, first as an organizer for poor farm workers in California, and then as a social activist for Mexican-Americans and Native Americans, a voice for poor Spanish-speaking immigrants, and for women within the male-dominated labor movement. Huerta has a unexpected personal story as well – the mother of eleven children, twice-married and divorced, and then in a relationship with a third man, the brother of Caesar Chavez. But first and foremost, Huerta was and is a woman who devoted her life to her cause above all else, someone who lived what she advocated, in the manner of Gandhi, as this film shows us.

Enlivened by music by Carlos Santana and others, the film offers archival footage of Huerta alongside such notables as Barack Obama and Bobby Kennedy, interviews with Gloria Steinem and notable figures within the farm workers and the Chicano movements, as well as her own accomplished children. The documentary is a bracing, illuminating tour of this segment of history and social change from the 1950s through the 1960s, and onward. DOLORES is a must-see for its tour of the history left out of school textbooks (or in Huerta’s case, deliberately removed) and for shining a spotlight on a strong woman leader, a woman of ideas and action, who deserves to be more widely known.

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Cate Marquis

Cate Marquis is a film critic and historian based in the St. Louis, Missouri area. Marquis reviews film for the St. Louis Jewish Light weekly newspaper and Playback: stl website, as well as other publications. The daughter of artist Paul Marquis, she was introduced to classic and silent films by her father, as well as art and theater. Besides reviewing films, she lectures on film history, particularly the silent film era, has served on the board of the Meramec Classic Film Festival and is a long-time collaborator with the St. Louis International Film Festival, serving on various juries.