Film Analysis: Julio Cesar Chavez

1442 words - 6 pages

There is no secret that films in the genre of biopic can often stretch the truth. These types of movies are frequently mere depictions of myth that is loosely based on factual accounts rather than being accurate representations of history. Many ethical dilemmas arise from these circumstances. Among those are the damaging representations that may skew a viewer’s perception of how history may have actually played out. Should filmmakers warn viewers that certain historical details of their forthcoming motion picture have been changed for the purpose of film? What are the editorial ethics when important details pertaining to vital pieces of history are left on the proverbial cutting room floor? ...view middle of the document...

It is understood that this is a Hollywood depiction and not a documentary, but the filmmakers still have a responsibility to ensure that the history that they present is precise. This film was an excellent opportunity to show Filipino strike leaders such as Larry Itliong, Pete Velasco, Philip Vera Cruz, Ben Gines, Andy Imutan alongside Mexican leaders such Chavez, Dolores Huerta and Gil Padilla as they performed the daunting task of organizing workers and creating and sustaining an alliance. Their strategies, cooperation and solidarity resulted in the nation’s first successful farm labor union, the United Farm Workers. However sadly, the film narrative is overwhelmingly one-sided, and the work of the Filipinos is erased.
In 1960, Larry Itliong was an organizer for the predominantly Filipino union, the AFL-CIO’s Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC). When Delano, California grape growers refused a wage of $1.40/hr, more than 1,500 AWOC members went on strike and walked out of the fields on Sept. 8, 1965. When Mexican farmworkers replaced the Filipinos in the field, Itliong swayed Chavez and the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) to join them on strike. On September 16, 1965, the NFWA voted to join the AWOC. In 1966, the AWOC and the NFWA merged to form the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee. Cesar Chavez was named director, and Itliong served as the UFW’s assistant director from 1966-1971. Philip Vera Cruz and Pete Velasco (both Filipinos) continue to serve on the UFW executive board.
There are many historical inaccuracies presented in this film. The film implied that the Chavez organization, the NFWA, was the only union ever in farm labor. Itliong and the Filipinos had been organizing since the 1930s, and they were feared for their militant like tactics. Their AFL-CIO’s AWOC (labor organizations) had been in Delano since the early 1960s. The Filipino led Grape strike that begins on September 8, 1965, is shown for a few seconds on screen and without any context. Furthermore the film does not show the historic 1966 merger between the two unions, the AWOC and the NFWA, which gave birth to the UFW. With the new union, Filipinos and Mexicans rejected the “divide and conquer” tactics used by growers (Mexicans during Filipino strikes, and vice versa) that had kept the groups from joining to demand better wages, working conditions and basic human dignity. The Grape Strike and the 1966 alliance were unprecedented and changed the course of American labor and social movement history.
In addition, within Luna’s film, the Filipino voice and presence in the UFW is severely lacking. Though there were several Filipinos in control and several thousand Filipino strikers, only a minor assembly is shown temporarily throughout the Grape Strike scene in the film. Larry Itliong expresses a single line to Chavez and his character, portrayed by Darrian Basco, was only delegated less than 20 speaking lines. Basco as Itliong performs in scarce...

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