More than two years in the making, The Fight in the Fields: Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers' Struggle is the first film to cover the full arc of Cesar Chávez' life. Using archival footage, newsreel, and present-day interviews with Ethel Kennedy, former California Governor Jerry Brown, Dolores Huerta, and Chávez' brother, sister, son and daughter, among others, the documentary traces the remarkable contributions of Chávez and others involved in this epic struggle. Produced, directed, and written by Rick Tejada-Flores and Ray Telles, The Fight in the Fields is a presentation of the Independent Television Service (ITVS). The film was produced by Paradigm Productions.
The two-hour documentary premiered at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival in January, aired across the nation on PBS from 1997 through 2000, and on the Sundance Channel in 2001 and 2002. The Fight in the Fields follows the first successful organizing drive of farm workers in the United States, while recounting the many failed and dramatic attempts to unionize that led up to this victory. Among the many barriers to organizing was the Bracero Program, which flooded the fields with Mexican contract workers between World War II and the 1960s. Woven through this historical mosaic is the story of Chávez' life: his adolescence as a migrant farmworker; his early days as a community organizer; his marriage to Helen Chávez, whose support allowed him to commit to the movement; his successful efforts to unionize farmworkers; his dramatic fasts which kept the eyes of the country's press on the issue and the striking workers committed to non-violence; the pivotal 300-mile march he led from Delano to Sacramento; and his friendship and landmark political alliance with Robert Kennedy.
The Fight in the Fields: Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers' Struggle is not a traditional biography. It is social history with Chávez as the central figure, and the stories of many ordinary people who were part of the movement. Chávez and many others helped bring about important changes in farmworkers lives. Many of these things are now taken for granted, such as getting fresh water and public toilets in the fields, and larger reforms like ensuring fair labor practices and ending the bracero program. The film pays tribute to the tremendous advances made by Chávez and all the men and women of the United Farmworkers Union who fought for a stake in the American dream.