Cesar Chavez (Blu-ray Review)

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Prolific actor Diego Luna (Y Tu Mama Tambien, Rudo Y Cursi) makes his feature film-directing debut with the biopic Cesar Chavez. Luna assembles an ensemble cast of characters to bring the legendary real life story and struggle of the man who would organize the migrant farmworkers of California and demand better working conditions for these people. He formed the first union for farmworkers and it wasn’t as easy as it sounds. I was curious about Cesar Chavez since I didn’t get to see it in theaters due to it’s limited release schedule but am happy to have the opportunity to review the Blu-ray. I present to you Cesar Chavez.


Cesar Chavez


Hollywood finally decided to give way and make a biopic about famed united farmworkers of America leader Cesar Chavez his own flick. It’s an admirable decision and one that definitely needs to be brought to the world. I should state that it’s a very ambitious and daunting task to get all of this done, because who would want to see a film about an American of Mexican descent lead a group of folks to strike out against business owners who don’t want to pay fair wages or maintain adequate work environments? I’m being slightly facetious in that Cesar Chavez should have been the home run it deserved to be rather than the double or triple it ends up being. There’s nothing wrong with that, though.

Cesar Chavez (Michael Peña) moves to California with his wife, Helen (America Ferrera) and their eight children to work the fields to get a firsthand account of the working conditions that his fellow brethren face daily. Yes, it’s everything he expected it to be and then some. This time period examines the life of Cesar Chavez and what was accomplished between the early 60’s and early 70’s. There’s very little in he way of an origin story, with only hints of what went on during Chavez’s childhood, as he only explains what happened and what molded him to want better for his fellow farmworkers, sometimes at the expense of his own family.

Along for the ride are fellow activist Dolores Huerta (Rosario Dawson) and his friend/lawyer Jerry Cohen (Bentley) who join the cause and raise awareness of their struggle for better pay and better working conditions. Pushing right back is Croatian immigrant (by his own admission) kingpin (the way he is presented) John Malkovich as Bogdanovich. He owns vast grape fields and is one of the major grape growers in the state. By all accounts everyone that works for him has opportunities to become great by working hard just like he did. Uh, ok? I don’t think Mr. Bogdanovich has looked in the mirror lately, because if he had he would have seen that he has distinct advantages over the rest of the immigrants that work for him.

Cesar Chavez hits all the right emotional notes and that’s great, because you do feel the struggle of how it went back then. Chavez had to work really hard trying to organize the farmworkers in addition to making sacrifices of his own in order to get the powers that be together on the same issues. It’s only due to the subsequent interest of Robert Kennedy that those who employed the farmworkers began to change their ways while figuring out other ways of crushing the rebellion, if you will.

The film is entertaining but it’s also not without faults. In my opening paragraph I mentioned that Hollywood took notice but let’s get real. Cesar Chavez is an independent flick. I don’t believe Hollywood was anywhere to be found on this project. It’s a low budget feature and that great due to their being no outside influence from the studios but that does not necessarily meant that everything went as smooth as silk. I found it strange that the opening credits/logos lasted more than two minutes while the end credits were nearly ten minutes long. The total running time of the film is billed at 102 minutes. Well, with all those credits and logos the film runs about 90-minutes in length.

That’s your problem right there. You need a film like this, especially since the majority of folks still don’t know who the guy is, to dig in and develop more backstory as to who the man was. As I was watching the film I felt that someone like Oliver Stone (not putting Luna down whatsoever) would have rocked it hard – even if he had contributed to script as opposed to directing it would have yielded some deeper results. The way the film is presented here glosses over Chavez’s origins and eventual death. You only get a meat and potatoes glimpse of the man and his mission. For some that may be all that’s needed but for others who have a deeper connection to the material, a good 30-minutes more (at least) would have been icing on the cake. Anyways, what you ultimately get is a compressed story of what happened in the life of Cesar Chavez during the 60’s and 70’s and nothing else. It’s fine.


Cesar Chavez -


Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Clarity/Detail: The clarity and detail levels are great on this Blu-ray. Unfortunately, you WILL feel the plight of the farmworker as they navigate their daily lives picking fruit for low wages and you all taste the dirt and grit due to the filters used in shooting the film. The Blu-ray brings that quality to your home.

Depth: There’s an almost sepia-like tone to the film especially during the field and certain outdoor scenes. I loved the visual aesthetic of the film.

Black Levels: Black levels are clean and free from crush and anomalies.

Color Reproduction: Cesar Chavez has a very basic color palette and the parts that did explode with color had nothing to do with our main characters or their surroundings. The elements that had color were the outside world to Chavez’s world. You’d have to see it to get the point.

Flesh Tones: Our primary characters look burnt and worn out but working out in the fields literally baking yourself on a daily basis will do that. Olive is the main color and it is on full display. Everyone else looks nice and healthy.

Noise/Artifacts: I did not detect any instances of bothersome noise or artifacts.


Cesar Chavez


Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD MA 5.1

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics: This is a drama but you would not be able to tell by how bombastic the soundtrack is. There are several instances of violence that come through as if you were part of the skirmish. It’s a near-reference track, no doubt.

Low Frequency Extension: The LFE on this Blu-ray kicks in during instances of protest, violence, and a few musical cues. Yes, there is a bit of “banda” music thrown in but it’s not the typical sounding kind by today’s standards. This flick takes place in the 60’s.

Surround Sound Presentation: Ambience is on full alert here and you can clearly hear the camera and lights shutter and blink during the many scenes of protest along with the various hearings that took place that Chavez was a part of.

Dialogue Reproduction: Primarily a dialogue driven film – the center channel does its thing without any hints of distortion.


Chavez -


Okay, this one is strange due to there being only one supplement. I say strange, because out of all the films out there they chose to include a very by-the-numbers featurette for Cesar Chavez. I remember when Diego Luna was promoting the hell out of the picture, doing the round, etc., and was severely disappointed that there were no deleted scenes additional documentaries, an audio commentary, etc. What gives? Cesar Chavez deserves better.

  • The Making of Cesar Chavez Featurette (HD, 16:05) – A very typical featurette that runs under 20 minutes that showcases a bit of what went into the making of the film that also features interviews with the cast and crew.




Cesar Chavez is a decent film that does deserve to be seen by more people but be aware that this film is really just a paraphrased version of the man’s life, as it jumps and moves forward at a brisk pace. You won’t have trouble keeping up with it but if you’re at all interested in important California history then you’ll want to see more of Chavez. The video and audio specs are stellar but drop the ball in supplements, which is a shame. All of that aside I do recommend Cesar Chavez.


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Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

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