A celebration of the organizers, musicians and artists comprising Cesar Chavez’s Farmworkers movement…Tells a previously untold story about the musicians and artists who dedicated their time, creativity and reputations to peacefully advance Chavez’s movement of labor organizing in pursuit of better wages and working conditions for farmworkers. Also explores other facets of Chavez’s life — from childhood to his final days — revelations that, until now, have not been shared on screen.
A unique and stimulating view of the life and legacy of American labor leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez and the farmworker movement.
History will remember the blood, sweat, and tears shed by late civil-rights activist and labor leader Cesar Chavez while standing up for American farmworkers. In Song for Cesar, co-writers and co-directors Andres Alegria and Abel Sanchez build on that legacy and pride through the music of Chavez’s era. Daniel Valdez’s “Brown Eyed Children of the Sun,” Joel Rafael’s “El Bracero,” Little Joe y La Familia’s “Viva la Huelga,” and other songs became the powerful soundtrack for Latino farmworkers who otherwise felt invisible and unheard. Through stunning archival photographs and footage and interviews with icons that include Carlos Santana, Joan Baez, Cheech Marin, Edward James Olmos, Maya Angelou, and Chavez’s United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta, this affectionate documentary hits many inspiring notes, expressing the emotion that flourished artistically during the Chicano Movement of the 1960s. As filmmaker and playwright Luis Valdez (Zoot Suit) says in the film, “Beware of a movement that sings.”
My father’s work inspired many artists, who in turn moved millions of others with their music. They demonstrated that music can – and must- do more than just entertain; it is also a powerful, non-violent tool that can educate and inspire people to action. Many of these artists participated in this documentary. It is their tribute to my father, which makes ‘A Song for Cesar’ so unique.
“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