Dolores

 

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Dedication to a cause comes at a cost but also arouses admiration.

 
Dolores
 

Now aged 86, Dolores Huerta is the subject of this straightforward and conventional but effective documentary made by Peter Bratt. We first see her as she is now and then follow through her life in chronological order. Early on she mentions her first ill-judged marriage (she had followed the Latino pattern of marrying young) and a second union would also end in divorce, but what really had lasting effect was the fact that already in her teenage years she had recognised the strength of her social conscience born of outrage at police brutality against the Mexicans with whom she was growing up in the 1950s.

 

Dolores celebrates this woman who became a hero of the civil rights movement, a skilled lobbyist whose devotion to that cause became central to her life and made her a figure who stood for action but also for non-violence. After being introduced to Cesar Chavez, she and he would set up an important organisation, the UFW (United Farm Workers), in 1962 and she would play a key role in it up to 2002. She saw the poor conditions of those working in California as being an example of American racism as well as evidencing exploitation of the poor, and in a general way she was influenced by the outlook of Gandhi.

 

The 1960s was a decade of movements for change but, if her political stance won the admiration of Robert Kennedy, others would be alienated by it. Yet her influence would spread when she later took up the issue of the dangers stemming from the use of pesticides and, after meeting Gloria Steinem, Dolores would embrace feminism. Her activities would not be ignored by Presidents: Reagan would deplore her and Obama would praise her (the latter would also acknowledge that it was her phrase that he had appropriated when declaring "Yes, we can").

 

Although Bratt clearly approves of Dolores Huerta, his film allows several of her eleven children to reveal how tough their childhoods were due to their mother so frequently being away from home (as one of them puts it "the movement became her most important child"). Dolores herself admits that she sacrificed much in her home life, but it emerges that in the long run her children have come to recognise the importance of what she did. That history still largely downgrades her contribution placing the stress instead on her male colleagues shows that feminists still have many battles to win. Furthermore, this tribute tells a continuing story confirming the extent to which a nation that proclaims liberty for all in practice treats its people according to the colour of their skin. Bratt's film could be slightly more succinct to its advantage but he adroitly mixes new footage with a whole range of neatly assembled historical material. Those drawn to the subject after of Dolores will not be disappointed by the film, nor by the portrait it provides of this important pioneer.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Featuring  Dolores Huerta, Angela Davis, Gloria Steinem, Wendy Greenfield, Lori De Lion, Art Torres, Emilio Huerta, Juana Chavez, Ricardo S. Chavez, Camilla Chavez, Maria Elena Chavez.

 

Dir Peter Bratt, Pro Brian Benson, Ph Jesse Dana, Ed Jessica Congdon, Music Mark Kilian.

 

5 Stick Films-DocHouse.
95 mins. USA. 2017. Rel: 1 December 2017. No Cert.