Nearly 1,500 people filled the historic Wilshire Theater in Beverly Hills yesterday to attend the premiere of the SPLC's new documentary, Viva la Causa, which depicts one of the seminal events in the march for human rights — the grape strike and boycott led by César Chávez and Dolores Huerta in the 1960s.
Like all of the SPLC's Teaching Tolerance products, it will be distributed free to classrooms across the nation. An estimated 50,000 teaching kits, which include the film and lesson plans, will be distributed to educators over the next two years.
The premiere's audience included hundreds of students and farmworkers, many of whom appear in the film's reenactments. More than 1,000 SPLC supporters also attended. SPLC Founder Morris Dees introduced the 40-minute film, and special guests included Huerta and Bill Brummel, the film's co-director and producer.
"This film teaches me to never give up," said one Los Angeles-area student who saw the premiere. "It motivates me to fight for what is right."
"People need to know about this struggle," said another student. "We hear little of it in school. I learned more about the farmworkers watching this film than I have in all my years of schooling."
Robert Bustos, a founding union member and captain during the farmworkers' march from Delano to Sacramento, praised Viva la Causa. "This story needs to be told to a whole new generation, and now it will be," he said. "This is powerful, that the voices of farmworkers will carry into classrooms across the country."
"The film is wonderful, powerful," said Lori de Leon, Huerta's daughter, who took part in the boycott. "It honors farmworkers and honors la causa, then and now."
Donna Leslie-Dennis of Long Beach, one of the SPLC supporters on hand, said the film was "great." She said she is recommending it to her friends who are teachers. "Keep up the good work!" she said.
Viva la Causa is the sixth film produced by the SPLC's Teaching Tolerance program. Four of the program's past documentaries have been nominated for Academy Awards, and two films — A Time for Justice and Mighty Times: The Children's March — have won the Oscar® in the short documentary category.