Most people may have heard the name Cesar Chavez, though most may not be familiar with who he is or what he accomplished. Diego Luna’s biopic “Cesar Chavez” is here to try and remedy that situation by telling us about Cesar’s (Michael Pena) quest to organize farmworkers into a union in 1960’s California in order for them to get fair pay. His group faces many hardships along the way, including crooked cops and judges, as well as stubborn farm owners who refuse to give in to their just demands. However, despite the many dangers that they must face, they press on in the hopes that they’ll be able to get what they deserve, even if it should take several years to do so.
There’s no doubt that Cesar was an important person, and his story most definitely deserves to be told in one form or another, but in trying to bring it to film, there are a number of obstacles standing in the way of it being successful. Perhaps the biggest roadblock in trying to tell Cesar’s story is the difficulty in turning it into a compelling film. Cesar helped organize the massive strike of farmworkers that went on for years, while fighting off those that would try and stop them, eventually resulting in the farm owners giving in in 1970. As far as a story for the big screen, there’s not a lot there to work with, leading to a somewhat repetitive film as the strike goes on and on. Again, it’s an important story, but as a film, it just doesn’t make for a particularly exciting experience.
Adding to this is its other major issue: the lack of emotion. This was a very trying time for these workers who put their lives on the line for themselves and their families, especially for Cesar, who appeared to have most of the weight on his shoulders. However, it’s a rather curious thing to find that the film is somewhat emotionally flat as it tries to tell the story. Screenwriter Keir Pearson tries his best to integrate little family issues that Cesar is going through with his son in the midst of the larger struggle, but with the lack of compelling material, it just comes off as a desperate attempt to generate feeling for the characters. In order for a film like this to work, strong emotional connections need to be formed with the characters from early on so that we have a strong desire to follow them every step of the way. Unfortunately, this is something that “Cesar Chavez” is unable to accomplish, leading to more indifference than interest.
Perhaps a straight-up documentary would have been a better approach to get the story across, rather than a narrative-driven film. At least that way they could have filled it with facts and interviews with the participants rather than try to dramatize the events in a weak manner. In fact, a documentary would probably have turned out to be far more fascinating and enlightening. It was an admirable attempt, but “Cesar Chavez” just goes to show that not all important stories make good material for a narrative feature.
“Cesar Chavez” comes to Blu-ray in a 2.40:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of great quality. Throughout the entire presentation, the picture remains beautifully sharp without a hint of fuzziness. Likewise, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is top-notch, allowing you to hear every little sound in perfect clarity. Overall, there’s not a single problem to be found in either area, giving you an optimal experience in both.
The Making of Cesar Chavez: A 19-minute featurette that features interview with the cast and crew in which they discuss behind the scenes aspects of the film. There’s a decent amount of information presented, so it’s worth the time to watch.
While Cesar Chavez was an important figure in the fight for farmworkers’ rights, a film adaptation of his work simply doesn’t make for a very compelling experience, especially when it doesn’t deliver the emotional impact that it should. The filmmakers may have had the best of intentions, but what they end up with is a very bland take on Chavez’s struggle that neither engages nor enlightens the audience, which only serves as more detriment to a story that should have been truly inspirational.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.
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