EDITORS NOTE: A similar article was first published at Examiner.com. This version has been published at 8Asians.com with permission. –Joz
By Peter Gonzaga
It was a night that Cesar Chavez supporters have been waiting for, the biopic “Cesar Chavez” directed by Diego Luna premiered at the TCL Chinese Theatre this week. The red carpet premiere was a historic moment for the UFW as UFW co-founder Dolores Huerta attended the event held at the TCL Chinese Theatre with the film’s stars walking the carpet including Michael Pena (Cesar Chavez), Rosario Dawson (Dolores Huerta), America Ferrera (Helen Chavez), Jacob Vargas (Richard Chavez) and Wes Bentley (Jerry Cohen).
Actor/director Diego Luna takes his biopic version chronicling the birth of the farm workers labor movement led by civil rights leader and labor organizer Cesar Chavez. His drive to bring fair wages for farm workers also rocked the core of his family. The film spotlights the non-violent Chavez as he fought prejudice and greed in the farmlands of America.
While the celebrities and their guests celebrated the epic film, a group of Filipinos including Filipino-American labor leader Larry Itliong’s son Johnny Itliong joined others in showing their disappointment of the depiction of Filipino labor leaders that stood side by side with Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Al Rojas and others as the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (led by Itliong) and National Farm Workers Association would merge to become known as the UFW.
According to an interview Johnny Itliong gave to broadcast journalist Steve Angeles of ABS-CBN after watching the film premiere, Itliong stated, “It’s an injustice to my father that he is not at that table (referring to pivotal scen in the movie) and that was everything that he fought for was to get the bargaining rights on that piece of paper and in the movie it shows him in the crowd as a spectator and that’s not right in my heart and I don’t think it’s right for our Filipino community to be a spectator to something that he was a major player in.”
Actor Darion Basco portrayed Larry Itliong in the film.
Many Filipino descendants of the farm workers echoed the same sentiment of Johnny Itliong. However they add that they are not looking to take away from Cesar Chavez’s work and the accomplishments he brought to the farm labor movement, but to ensure that the huge involvement of Larry Itliong and other Filipino labor leaders known as the “Delano Manongs” are credited in the strikes/protest in Delano and helping form the UFW.
Respected journalist Prosy De La Cruz added in a recent Facebook post to this writer, “”Artistic expression is unique and particular to one’s soul, and art is the language of the soul. But, even before the soul can articulate what it wants to express, there is the knowledge in one’s mind that should be based on accurate historical facts. When a film shows the opposite of what history was, for example, that Cesar Chavez had to be persuaded with, not once, not twice, not thrice, but four times by Larry Itliong and his colleagues.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Peter Gonzaga has worked in the entertainment industry for the past 10 years in various positions ranging from photo editor, photographer and journalist and co-owner of Front Row Features Wire, Pacific Rim Video and Pacific Rim Photo Press. He primarily produces news and video content pertaining to Asians in entertainment and Hollywood.