“Song for Cesar” does more than most films can do. It entertains, inspires, challenges but also opens the viewer so Cesar Chavez’s life, courage and wisdom can be absorbed into oneself. This cinema magic comes from the musical storytelling that Sanchez and Alegria present with gusto, sensitivity, love and power. This is Chicano history expanded to show the inclusiveness of blacks, Filipinos, whites, indigenous and Mexican folks, musical styles, labor sharing and an insatiable hunger for dignity and justice. The place of origin is Delano, the prophet is Cesar Chavez, the drama is Teatro Campesino, the action is for everyone with a heartbeat to organize and sing and paint and care for others, for the children, for the elders-there is so much human caring in the face of human cruelty, in this film. What carries the story forward from the past to the present to our desperate and shared future is best said in this marvelous film by Luis Valdez, “Beware of a movement that sings”. Watch this film, teach it and you may experience Cesar Chavez come right into the room singing, “Set me Free”.
Divinity School and Department of Anthropology, Harvard University