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Dolores Huerta watched the documentary about her life, Peter Bratt’s “Dolores,” multiple times before she could really process her emotions about the project.
“I think I had to see the movie about four times before I could finally settle it down and process it because so much of it was bringing back so many memories of things that had happened in the past,” the 87-year-old activist said at a Q&A following a screening of the film at the International Documentary Association’s annual screening series. “It was very emotional, of course, to see all of those scenes of everything we had gone through in the movement.”
“Dolores” tells the story of how Huerta became a union hero as she helped co-found the National Farmworkers Association and later started her own foundation dedicated to community organizing.
Though César Chávez gets the majority of the credit for the work the pair did together, the film reveals that it was Huerta who coined the phrase “sí se puede,” which was co-opted by Barack Obama for his “yes we can” presidential campaign. In later scenes in the movie, she’s shown encouraging girls and women to not be afraid to take credit for the work they’ve done.
At the Q&A, she expanded on how she wants women to let go of their fears.
“I love to quote Coretta Scott King, who said, ‘We will never have peace in the world until women take power.’ I want to amend that by using the word ‘feminist,'” she explained. “The reason I say that is because when you say what is a feminist, a feminist is somebody who cares, of course, about women’s right to abortion, women’s rights, gay rights, who cares about climate change, who cares about worker’s rights, immigrants’ rights, who cares about civil rights. That’s what a feminist is. So I think when we can say ‘when feminists take power.'”
One of the complicated aspects of Huerta’s life that the film touches on is the fact that because she was constantly working to make working conditions better for the farmworkers of California, she wasn’t at home with her 11 children.
But her son Ricardo Chavez said that a childhood filled with protests and boycotts prepared him for the harsh realities of adulthood more than anything else.
“What you realize is that by the time we were in our young adulthood and we encountered institutionalized racism — just raw, ugly racism — we weren’t deer-in-the-headlights stuck. We knew exactly how to address it. We got to to see it. We didn’t hear it secondhand, it was something we were engaged [in],” he said at the Q&A. “Sacrifice is not giving something away, it’s a trade. You’re giving away something great for something great, and a lot of times people forget that.”
Huerta’s kids are now doctors, nurses, lawyers, and even congressional candidates.
“They survived and they’re resourceful and independent,” she said.
Director Bratt began working with Huerta five years ago, after producer Carols Santana brought him the idea.
“I constantly credit Carlos, because Barack Obama was the president at the time. It seemed like we were headed in a forward direction,” Bratt said. “I think when we started we were still saying we were living in a post-racial society.”
But, especially in 2017, the film is as timely as ever.
“It’s so relevant, the fact that we’re still wrestling with some of the issues that we were wrestling with 40 or 50 years ago — even more so, in some cases — is really astonishing,” said Bratt.
Watch clips from the Q&A below:
The IDA Documentary Screening Series brings some of the year’s most acclaimed documentary films to the IDA community and members of industry guilds and organizations. Films selected for the Series receive exclusive access to an audience of tastemakers and doc lovers during the important Awards campaigning season from September through November. For more information about the series, and a complete schedule, visit IDA.