The recently released movie César Chávez, History Is Made One Step at a Time will be shown free at the Detroit Film Theatre at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) on Tuesday, May 27 at 5:30 p.m. Chávez spent his life as an activist and community organizer, co-founded the United Farm Workers (UFW) and is well known for initiating the California grape boycotts in the 1960s and ’70s. The movie stars Michael Peña as César Chávez, America Ferrera as Helen Chávez and John Maklovich as the owner of an industrial grape farm.
The movie follows Chávez's efforts to organize 50,000 farm workers in California, many of whom were braceros, temporary workers from Mexico who had to return to Mexico if they stopped working. Working conditions were very poor, and the braceros were targets of racism and violence by their employers and other Californians. To improve conditions for the workers, Chávez co-founded the UFW labor union and organized major nonviolent campaigns, among them the Delano grape strike, the Salad Bowl strike and the 1975 Modesto march.
Many books, articles and studies have been written about Chávez, but this is the first feature film about him. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly said: “It should have been made 40 years ago, but this biopic about the Mexican-American leader who spearheaded the fight for farmworkers’ rights couldn’t be more timely. It arrives just as the clout of unions is crumbling, and it roots itself in the dynamic nuts-and-bolts tactics of how Chávez built a movement out of people who had no power. In the title role, Michael Peña has a no-nonsense fire: he captures how Chavez borrowed from Martin Luther King Jr. but also fueled the struggle with his own improvisatory brilliance. Keeping a strike going for years, he triumphed by fusing empathy and strategy."
About the inspiration for the movie, director Diego Luna said, “Films about the farm worker’s struggle are not exposed because the issue still exists. Chávez’s effort in the 1960s was just the beginning of a movement that needs to continue.” He also said, “There is no film about César Chávez in the U.S. Our stories need to be celebrated and exposed. I had the necessity to tell the story when I had a Mexican-American born son.”
This free event is supported by the DIA and Wayne County's Department of Health and Human Services and is hosted by the Wayne County Executive Office.
DIA Hours and Admission
9 a.m.–4 p.m. Tuesdays–Thursdays, 9 a.m.–10 p.m. Fridays, and 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. General admission (excludes ticketed exhibitions) is free for Wayne, Oakland and Macomb county residents and DIA members. For all others, $8 for adults, $6 for seniors ages 62+, $4 for ages 6–17. For membership information, call 313-833-7971.