Film highlights Dolores Huerta |

Film highlights Dolores Huerta

It focuses on the often-forgotten cofounder of first farm workers’ union

Dolores Huerta appears in “Dolores” by Peter Bratt, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.
Courtesy of the Sundance Institute/ photo by George Ballis

Filmmaker Peter Bratt was thoroughly enjoying the moment. In a recent telephone conversation with The Park Record, while discussing the irrepressible labor leader and feminist Dolores Huerta, he just couldn’t help himself. It’s totally understandable.

The subject of Bratt’s film, “Dolores,” currently screening in the U. S. Documentary competition at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, will do that to you. Huerta, the iconic cofounder, with Caesar Chavez, of the first farm workers’ union and a movement leader by nature, often lends herself to ironic anecdotes.

This particular one had to do with how, during filming, Huerta continually attempted to steer the narrative away from herself and toward the ongoing fight for justice in all its shapes and sizes. The forces to keep the film on track, however, were formidable.

From the beginning, the filmmaking team had been carefully assembled and they were all on the same page. This project would be about Huerta and any relevant sidebars would just flow out of that. Although her input would be invaluable, she, herself, would remain the subject.

Bratt recounts the chronology this way:

“One day, just like in the movies, the phone rang,” Bratt said. “The person on the other end was rock music icon Carlos Santana (Yup, that guy). In a mysterious and quietly urgent voice he whispered, ‘We need to make a documentary about sister Dolores, while she’s still with us.’”

Having Santana onboard as executive producer no doubt lent the production a guiding light. It was, after all, an obvious labor of love to all concerned. Huerta’s long involvement with the farm workers’ union in labor struggles and boycotts had made her a heroine to many.

While introducing another film with her a few years earlier, Bratt was amazed at the way she handled herself in front of a crowd.

“She was at once calming and inciting,” he said.

What with Chavez receiving almost all the credit for transforming the labor movement, somehow the equally responsible Huerta was left out of the narrative. Pervading patriarchies, both in the dominant and Latino cultures, will do that.

Huerta, who is now in her 80s and only recently returned from marching in solidarity with the historic gathering of tribes at Standing Rock, has shown little sign of weakening in her longstanding fight against racial and labor injustice. For one who became one of the most defiant feminists of the 20th century, these skirmishes are nothing more than speed bumps.

Huerta, as well as Bratt and his brother Benjamin, have already been tapped by the organizers of Saturday’s “Women’s March on Main” here in Park City as both front-of-the-pack marchers and featured speakers at the end of the March rally.

Taking place the day following the Trump inauguration, I wonder if Huerta’s speech will remain both calming and inciting, or veer more toward one or the other.

Bratt, in response to a question during the phone interview that posed the proposition that women were undervalued in general and maybe even more so once they assumed positions of leadership, agreed wholeheartedly.

“Yes, most definitely, that is an accurate statement,” he said.

He also spoke excitedly about the sheer amount of archival footage they discovered that makes the case for Huerta having been a prime influence on the movement and not just a supporting player.

“It’s all there in the archives: what she accomplished and how she was nudged out of the very union she helped create,” Bratt said.

As to what he would like filmgoers to take away from “Dolores,” his first documentary feature, his response was still all about Huerta herself.

“Before her, Latino and Native voices really didn’t matter much,” he said. “But once she demonstrated the power of organized voices, the narrative began to change.

“I hope it inspires. This is not the end of the story. We will stand up. We will move forward. The film has been an incredible journey. One, which, at the end of the day, I feel will be my proudest moment for myself, my family, and my community.”

“Dolores” is in Sundance’s U.S. Documentary Competition program and will screen at the following times:

  • Saturday, Jan. 21, 6 p.m. at the Salt Lake CityLibrary Center Theatre
  • Sunday, Jan. 22, 3 p.m. at Redstone Cinema 7
  • Wednesday, Jan. 25, 3 p.m. at Yarrow Hotel Theatre
  • Saturday, Jan. 28, 9 a.m. at the Yarrow Hotel Theatre



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