Dolores

Movie review by
Michael Ordona, Common Sense Media
Dolores Movie Poster Image
Activist combats racism, sexism, and powerful enemies.
  • NR
  • 2017
  • 95 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Huerta struggles mightily against powerful forces, including bigotry and sexism, and sacrifices much (though her children might say too much) to improve the lot of farm workers. The story of this real-life activist is all about social justice, social responsibility, and persevering against overwhelming odds -- with major successes.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Huerta is depicted honestly, flaws and all -- including her unconventional family choices (the mother of 11 kids, she frequently left them for long stretches of time to fulfill her activist duties). Some viewers may be uncomfortable with her imperfections, but ultimately, she's a clear beacon of inspiration and courage. Another, far better-known champion of farm workers' rights, Cesar Chavez, is also featured. Robert Kennedy's courageous support of their efforts is highlighted.

Violence

Fairly brief but intense archival footage of police brutality, including particularly violent blows from clubs against unarmed protesters (both men and women). Robert Kennedy is shown, bloodied, in the aftermath of the shooting that killed him; those around him are in great distress.

Sex

No nudity or graphic descriptions. Huerta's unconventional family choices are discussed: She had 11 children by a number of men, including two husbands and at least one long-term relationship. These choices are used against her by opponents.

Language

One reference to "the B word," but it's not actually said. Some racist language used.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Dolores is a documentary that explores a largely untold chapter in American history: The struggle for migrant farm workers' rights. It centers on Dolores Huerta, the woman who was at the epicenter of those battles for years. There's wince-inducing archival footage of police violence against unarmed protesters, as well as extensive discussions of racism, sexism, and economic warfare. Huerta's unconventional family choices are scrutinized (she had 11 children by several men, a fact her opponents used against her). In tackling these issues, the film presents a fully formed, humanistic portrait of an important figure in recent American history. Huerta has been all but omitted from most history books, but her dogged determination and tireless activism have led to major gains, as recognized by a string of U.S. presidents (she is the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom).

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What's the story?

In DOLORES, viewers watch as Dolores Huerta leaves a comfortable existence behind to devote her life to improving conditions for migrant farm workers and other civil rights issues. With Cesar Chavez, she founds the National Farm Workers Association (now the United Farm Workers) and, through her intelligence, indomitable will, and unrelenting energy, wins many important victories. She also becomes a key figure in the area of intersectionality, working with many groups -- including feminists, civil rights advocates, and environmentalists -- to improve people's lives across the board, which shows the importance of different movements working together. But Huerta's seemingly endless struggle comes with high costs to her and her family.

Is it any good?

This effective, lively documentary comes across as heartfelt, even a labor of love. Dolores covers an important chapter in recent American history that's been largely driven past by most school buses: the labor and civil rights struggles of (mostly migrant) farm workers. Cesar Chavez is the best-known name to champion that cause, but Huerta was there every step of the way, too; she even co-founded the National Farm Workers Association with him. Huerta's story is one of perseverance and dogged determination in the extreme. Her successes have earned her endless commendations and a revered place in Mexican-American history.  

Filmmaker Peter Bratt has assembled powerful footage to illustrate Huerta's many decades of activism, including a host of comments (not all flattering) by luminaries of her times. These include not only colleagues, but presidents and civil rights leaders, as well as commentators attempting to dismiss her. The film stops short of canonizing Huerta: It affords a fair amount of time to her sometimes-prickly personality and her unconventional family choices. From all accounts, she devoted more of herself to the struggle than to her 11 children, and the human cost of that decision is addressed. The result is a portrait of the sacrifice, priorities, and energy necessary to accomplish great things. It should be an eye-opener for many families and offer rich fodder for discussion.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what moved Dolores Huerta to dedicate her life to activism. What did she see or experience that made her so devoted to her cause? What changes did she want to see, and what are some of the things she helped accomplish? What made her so effective?

  • How did the movie's scenes of real-life violence make you feel? How did the impact of these scenes compare to what you might see in a fictionalized drama or action movie?

  • How does Huerta's story demonstrate perseverance? Why is that an important character strength?

  • Huerta's accomplishments required significant sacrifices on her part. What did she choose to sacrifice? What do you think of those choices? How do you think her kids have responded?

  • Did it surprise you that Huerta faced such opposition within the union she helped create? Why didn't she become the union's president when the post became open? Should her story be taught in history books, or is it enough to mention Cesar Chavez?

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