For some people today, the legacy of César Chavez must seem like a distant, even faded, memory. But as Rick Tejada-Flores and Ray Telles establish in their superlative portrait, Chavez had an impact that has changed American society. His charisma, brilliance as an organizer, willingness to sacrifice, and commitment to nonviolent change are chronicled with a splendid array of film clips, interviews, and still photographs.
But The Fight in the Fields is not a simple deification of one person. The history of the organizing of the United Farm Workers (UFW), the struggle for social justice, and the emergence of the Chicano activist movement are related with a fullness and coherence that are altogether rare. The political and social movements of the sixties and seventies have been much distorted over the years, and the lessons of the civil rights movement, the grape and lettuce boycotts, and the ultimate successes and failures of union organizing efforts are a part of American history that needs to be told, stripped of myth and political agenda. This documentary elucidates the issues and expands our knowledge of this period, but it also tells the life story of a truly remarkable leader and man, his family, and his friends. It explores the contemporary position of the UFW even as it positions the union historically.
This is powerful, moving, and living history that allows for a truer understanding of the conflicts and struggles of today. The filmmakers have constructed a multifaceted and vivid examination of a leader whose personal journey parallels the movement that affected a nation’s conscience and ultimately changed its understanding of a world that previously had been invisible. The Fight in the Fields is film history well worth watching.
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