"Beware of a movement that sings"
— Luis Valdez
In the 1960s and '70s, Cesar Chavez and farmworker activists formed an alliance with musicians and artists to help build a movement called "La Causa". A Song for Cesar tells the story of that alliance using first person accounts of artists, musicians, members of Chavez's family, and other key figures of the movement. Inspired by the spirit of the thousands of farmworkers who struggled for justice
alongside labor leaders Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, and Larry Itliong, musicians Abel
Sanchez and Jorge Santana's encapsulating tribute song bookends the film, highlighting the ways in which music and the arts were essential in building the farmworkers' movement
Five studio recording sessions comprise the backbone of the film wherein the songs are also given historical and cultural context from the original artists that further anchor their place in the movement. These powerful songs serve as an artistic response to the social conditions that defined the reality of the farmworkers. Pairing rare archival footage with a wealth of prominent interviewees, we bare witness to anecdotes such as ones about Chavez's early life and work in the fields, the inception of the United Farm Workers union, the emergence of Chicano art, the role of theater in the struggle, and nonviolent action and art as a response to state and corporate violence. All of these elements form the legacy of a movement that joined social struggle and culture at the hip.
A Song for Cesar weaves together impassioned music and art that strove for social justice emblematic of the period, making for a timely and contemporary reminder of art's role in progressive change and the road still ahead of us today.
AMONG THOSE FEATURED:
- Dolores Huerta, Co-Founder, United Farmworkers Union
- Maya Angelou, Writer / Civil Rights Activist
- Joan Baez, Singer / Songwriter
- Carlos Santana, Guitarist
- Cheech Marin, Actor / Art Collector
- Daniel Valdez, Singer / Songwriter
- Edward James Olmos, Actor
- Graham Nash, Singer / Songwriter
- Kris Kristofferson, Actor / Singer / Songwriter
- Jose "Little Joe" Hernandez, Little Joe y La Familia
- Luis Valdez, Founder, Teatro Campesino
- Taj Mahal, Singer / Songwriter
- And many more...
FILMMAKERS' STATEMENT: "I knew that people have always used music and art to illuminate various aspects of their lives, including social realities such as poverty and violence. The arts have inspired social movements and, in turn, artists have taken inspiration from the struggles that people engage in. The Farmworkers Movement of the 60s and 70s sparked a huge cultural blossoming. Abel and I had been witnesses to this history and as cultural workers, once the inspiration hit us, we had to make this film. As people today, especially young people, join movements to make our lives safer and more fulfilling, our world a fairer and better place, they can benefit from the fundamental lesson of this film, "Beware of a movement that sings."
— Andres Alegria
"My motivation, initially, was to make a film which would bring to light the legacy of Cesar Chavez and the farmworker movement known as 'La Causa'. Once the story began to reveal all the courage and sacrifice this important legacy contained, I was then deeply moved on an inner level to do whatever it took to tell the story of Cesar Chavez and this legacy. Especially to depict and acknowledge all that was suffered, endured, and sacrificed so that the farmworkers and their families might have a better life. Being a songwriter and musician myself, I also wanted to hopefully inspire other young songwriters and artists to think about what they might be able to do with their art to contribute to society as the narrators in this film so eloquently do.
All this, in addition to hopefully educating and inspiring current and future generations to think about social justice and what they might be able to do, ended up being why I proceeded in this 15-year journey of making this film. I had an excellent partner, Andres Alegria, who also made it why I pursued finishing the film. Couldn't have done it without him."
— Abel Sanchez