Fil-Ams cry foul over lack of Pinoy labor leaders in Hollywood film

By Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Posted at Mar 24 2014 09:52 AM | Updated as of Mar 24 2014 10:30 PM

HOLLYWOOD – Filipino activists took to the streets of Hollywood, this time to protest the premiere of “Cesar Chavez”, a biographical film about the Mexican leader’s revolutionary work in the farm labor movement of the 1960s.

But protesters say, back then, Chavez could not have managed to fight for better working conditions for workers without the earlier contributions of Filipino labor leaders like Larry Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz.

They want the film, directed by Mexican actor Diego Luna, to reflect that. "Cesar Chavez" stars Michael Peña as the title character, America Ferrera as his wife, Rosario Dawson and John Malkovich.

Many believe that in real life, while Filipinos spearheaded the farm labor movement, Chavez has gotten most of the credit.

While many these protesters have not seen the movie yet, they fear that based on the trailer, the contributions of Filipinos during that era have either been omitted or diminished.

“It’s a celebration of the unity of the Filipino and Mexican farm workers in the fields,” Larry Itliong’s son Johnny, who led the protest, said. “We’re just asking questions about the movie. The trailer did not depict Larry in the March to Sacramento. [It] did not show Larry in the signing of the contract. Those are the pinnacle events in the UFW and they’re missing half the story.”

After nearly two hours of picketing, representatives from the movie invited Johnny Itliong and a few other protesters to watch the movie.

While they said they appreciated the invitation to watch the movie, their fears were confirmed that the movie really diminished the role of Filipinos during the historic farm labor movement.

They say the involvement of Larry Itliong, played by Fil-Am actor Darion Basco, was inaccurate. They also said none of the other Filipino labor leaders were included in the film.

“It’s an injustice to my father that he is not at that table,” Itliong added. “That was everything that he fought for was to get the bargaining rights on that piece of paper and in the movie it shows him in the crowd as a spectator. That’s not right in my heart and I don’t think it’s right for our Filipino community to be a spectator to something that he was a major player in.”

Itliong adds this major motion picture goes against recent advances by the Filipino community to have the Delano Manongs recognized, including Assembly Bill 123 which require California schools to include the contributions of Filipino labor leaders in history lessons.

Publicists for the film have not yet responded to Balitang America’s inquiries regarding the protest and alleged misrepresentation of the Filipino farm workers.

Itliong will now speak to rest of the community regarding the next steps to take in response to the movie.

The movie will hit theaters nationwide next week.