Movie about life of Cesar Chavez simply got it wrong

Written By Matt Garcia

Most great men have one. Malcolm X, Gandhi, Mandela all have one. And now, Cesar Chavez has his.

The biographical film titled “Cesar Chavez,” which came out this past weekend, lends itself to the creation of legends. In the case of Chavez, the legend is complicated by the fact that his story did not exactly lead to the liberation of the people he represented. Great strides were made during the heyday of the farm workers movement – namely the first contracts for farm workers and a California law that recognized their right to unionize. But field workers today suffer indignities familiar to those who worked in rural California prior to the 1960s.

These facts are not the concern of Diego Luna, the new film’s director. “We have to send a message to the (film) industry that our stories have to be represented. And with the depth and the complexity they deserve,” Luna said recently.

Fair enough. As a Mexican American and a historian, I too long for dignified cinematic portrayals of Latinos that convey the struggles for equality our people have initiated. Our yearnings, however, should not come at the expense of historical accuracy.

I recently published a book on the United Farm Workers and Chavez, and I understand the need to play a little loose with the timeline for dramatic effect. But Luna’s omissions and alterations are really historical subversions. His interpretation, I suspect, is a product of his unsophisticated handling of U.S. identity politics. He rejects the multiethnic community that made up the farm workers movement in favor of a simplistic notion that Mexicans did all the work. Creating a hero comes at the expense of depicting an entire social movement.

The Filipino American National Historical Society has rightly come out against the film’s misrepresentation of labor leader Larry Itliong and have questioned Luna’s failure to acknowledge the largely Filipino Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, which initiated the 1965 grape strike, a turning point in the film.

The film doesn’t mention white volunteers and organizers beyond Fred Ross, Cesar’s mentor, and Jerry Cohen, the talented leader of the UFW legal team. Several white ministers and students played a critical role in the movement, including Rev. Jim Drake, who came up with the boycott strategy. As the film lumbers toward the epic signing of the first contracts in 1970, Luna’s most egregious distortion of history comes when he shows Chavez in London. We see the labor leader lobbying dockworkers on the Thames River wharf and appealing to consumers not to buy the fruit. Though this work actually happened, it was a young Jewish American volunteer, Elaine Elinson, who almost single-handedly kept the grapes out of Europe.

The film even fails to represent accurately the supporting cast of Mexican American activists in Cesar’s orbit. Gilbert Padilla (Yancey Arias) and Dolores Huerta (Rosario Dawson) come off as nothing more than a yes-man and yes-woman to Chavez when in fact they were distinguished organizers in their own right. Only Helen Chavez, Cesar’s wife, is presented as a character with her own mind and story, a tribute to America Ferrera’s standout performance.

But the film probably does the greatest disservice to Cesar Chavez himself. The director opts out of the 1970s altogether, a period in which Chavez struggled with personal and professional demons and became invested in creating a community rather than solidifying earlier gains. Such a storyline would have done little to burnish his credentials as a civil and labor rights leader, but it would have made for a more compelling film. More importantly, it would have made for a much more accurate portrait of the real man’s depth and complexity.

These omissions reflect the limitations of the genre and the hero-making project of this film. With rare exception, biopics elide complexity and avoid overt criticism of their subjects. The most extraordinary and entertaining renditions of historical figures have often via fictionalized characters, like Orson Welles’ Charles Foster Kane based on William Randolph Hearst (“Citizen Kane”) and P. T. Anderson’s Daniel Plainview based on Edward Doheny (“There Will Be Blood”) .

In fairness to Luna, Chavez was delivered to him with decades of historical baggage, thanks to hagiography and political stamps of approval from Robert Kennedy, Jerry Brown, and Barack Obama. Though new histories are now being written, it will take time for the public’s perception of the hero to catch up with the all-too-human Chavez. Sadly, Luna’s film does almost nothing to assist this move toward a new understanding of Cesar Chavez’s life and the successes and failures of the movement he led.

*Source: Merced Sun Star

Dan Inosanto: A True Fighting Spirit

A martial arts legend in his own right, he holds advanced rank in many martial arts systems including Jeet Kune Do, Filipinio Martial Arts, Silat, Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and others….

He has been directly responsible for introducing many prominent martial artists such as Pendekar Paul de Thouars, Edgar Sulite, Chai Sirisute, Leo Gaje, Johnny Lacoste, Maung Gyi, among others to the general martial arts public.

Dan

*Source: Fighting HQ

Today in History…

On March 26, 1920, the Philippine Legislature enacted Act No. 2928, which adopted the official flag of the Philippines.

From SYMBOLS OF THE STATE: REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, 1975: “The equilateral triangle on the left side of the flag is symbolic of equality among men. The eight rays of the Philippine Sun in the triangle represent the eight provinces that revolted against Spanish rule. The three stars on each corner of the triangle stand for the three geographical divisions of the country—Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

The red stripe symbolizes the willingness of the Filipino to shed blood in defense of his country. The blue stands for common unity and the noble aspirations of the Filipino people.”

Learn more about History of the Philippine Flag:
http://bit.ly/1gogPOG

PFLAG

FILIPINO PRIDE?

When I made my way down south to Cebu and the Visayas, I was shocked that people were not impressed with my meager knowledge of Tagolog. I say this because in Manila (and up north in general), people are often completely flattered that you can speak ANY Tagalog. Down south, not only were they not impressed with my Tagalog, but they demanded to know why I couldn’t already speak Bisaya – their dialect! Haha. At first I found them kind of rude, honestly, but soon began to really appreciate their sense of pride. I really came to love the people and culture down there. Bisaya people don’t like Tagalog because they believe that the majority of people in the Philippines speak Bisaya, and that it should have been chosen as the national language instead of Tagalog. Unfortunately they are also looked down on by many people in Manila.

young-dancer-in-the-ati-ati-han-festival

If somebody from Manila visits the Visayas and speaks to the locals in Tagalog, the locals will answer back in English, even though they can speak Tagalog well (they must learn it in school). Again, the point is I love this sense of pride that Bisaya people have in their language, culture, and food…and I wish that people up north weren’t quite so “western-worshipping”. There were times when I almost seemed to embarrass people in Manila by speaking their own language (Tagalog), as if they were ashamed of it. Filipinos have so much wonderful culture and heritage – I would like to see all Filipinos celebrate and take pride in it.

*Source: http://www.idreamedofthis.com

And the Oscar goes too….

Congratulations to songwriters Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, who won an Oscar for Best Original Song for “Let It Go,” the hit single from the animated feature Frozen, at Sunday night’s 86th Academy Awards. The big win apparently makes Lopez the first Filipino American to win an Oscar.

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*Source: Angry Asian Man blog

DID YOU KNOW…WE HAVE AN OLYMPIAN

Mmichael-Christian-Martinez_skating

Michael Christian Martinez, the lone athlete for the Philippines, will compete in the Men’s Figure Skating program.

Martinez began skating in 2005 at SM Southmall ice rink. He trains mainly in Manila and also spends several months a year in California with coach John Nicks, and formerly, Ilia Kulik and Peter Kongkasem.

Martinez debuted on the Junior Grand Prix series in the 2010–2011 season.

In April 2012, Martinez tore ligaments in his knee. He landed his first triple Axel in competition at a 2012–2013 Junior Grand Prix event in Lake Placid, New York. He placed 6th in his JGP event in Croatia. At the 2012 Crystal Skate of Romania, Martinez won his first senior international title, also a first for the Philippines.

Martinez finished 5th in his second appearance at the 2013 World Junior Championships and set a new personal best overall score of 191.64 points.

Michael-Christian-Martinez_Flag

In 2013–14, Martinez started his season at the 2013 JGP Latvia where he finished 4th. He then competed on the senior level at the 2013 Nebelhorn Trophy, the last qualifying event for the 2014 Winter Olympics. He finished 7th and earned a spot for the Philippines in men’s singles – a first for his country. He then competed at the 2013 JGP Estonia and won his first JGP medal, a bronze. He withdrew from the 2014 Four Continents Championships but competed at 2014 Skate Helena and won the gold medal.

In September 2013, Martinez competed for the 2013 Nebelhorn Trophy, the last qualifying event for the 2014 Winter Olympics. He finished 7th earning him a spot for the Philippines. Martinez is the first skater from Southeast Asia to qualify for the Olympics and the only athlete representing the Philippines at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. He was his country’s flagbearer at the opening ceremony. Viktor Kudriavtsev coached him for one month up to the Olympics.

Michael advanced to the finals garnering a score of 64.81 in the short program held at the Iceberg Skating Palace on February 13, 2014.

*Source: Wikipedia

Sugar High

Get high on Sugar High in their debut music video, Sugar Sugar! Sugar High, the newest boy group to make you fall in love, consists of Carl, Carlos, Julius, Daniel and Luis.

Director: Nolan Bernardino
Asst. Director: Thyro Alfaro
Prod. Manager: Faith Manguiat
Editor: Iggy Javellana
Hair and Make-Up: Art Agulay
Stylist: Reginald Cruz
Asst. Stylist: Franz Pedrasa
Road Manager: Jennie Laine Navoa

Music Produced by Jumbo “Bojam” De Belen and Thyro Alfaro
Choreographed by Erik Javie