Dolores (directed by Peter Bratt, screenplay by Peter Bratt and Jessica Congdon) is about Dolores Huerta, an activist who has dedicated her life to social justice. The documentary shows Dolores tirelessly advocating for farm workers, going on strike and negotiating contracts with labor employers, lobbying for and against California and federal laws, and co-founding the United Farm Workers union. She faced numerous setbacks, including sexism within the activist community, getting arrested a couple of dozen times, and, as a 58-year-old grandma, getting beaten up at a peaceful protest in San Francisco and hospitalized.
Dolores is indefatigable, but the film also reveals the toll her dedication to the cause had on her family life. She sacrificed a lot personally to be the hero she was to so many others. Interviews with some of her 11 children reveal how she was rarely home and how badly they missed her. Yet it’s also clear her children understand why she made the choices she did and still love her deeply. Many of them now work for the Dolores Huerta Foundation which she founded to create leadership opportunities for community organizing.
Supergirl (directed by Jessie Auritt) frames Naomi Kutin as a superhero before we even step foot in the theatre, and with good reason. Naomi is a world record-holding powerlifter, setting a new world record for women in the 97lb class at age 9 when she squatted 214.9 pounds. I was lucky enough to attend a screening where Naomi was there for a talkback, and she shared how much she’s lifting now. She’s currently 14-years-old and her highest squat is 303lbs, and her heaviest deadlift is 350lbs.
The film takes us on Naomi’s journey as she goes from a young girl determined to continue breaking world records to a young teen just focused on getting better at doing what she loves. As Naomi rises in prominence in the deadlifting world, she also faces setbacks: she’s bullied online as haters comment on her YouTube videos, she suffers from a chronic migraine (likely due to a lack of magnesium) that pulls her out of regular practice for a while, and she suffers through a pulled hamstring.
Perhaps most remarkable is how much Naomi’s family supports what she does. They are practicing Orthodox Jews and most of the women’s competitions fall on a Saturday when Naomi isn’t able to participate due to Sabbath. In a surprisingly unorthodox turn, she and her family lobby for special permission to lift on the day when the men lift, Sundays, so she can still compete. At the talkback, her mom said: ‘we’re just happy that she’s happy.’
Naomi talks about getting in ‘pysch mode’ before lifting, to get herself into the right mental state. Curious, I asked her what she does to get psyched and she said she listens to 2000s rock music and watches other dead lifters’ compilation videos to get inspired. Watching little girls eagerly swarm her after the screening it’s clear she’s going to be future ‘psych’ inspiration for many young women who want to get into the sport.
Naomi put it simply during the talkback at Montclair Film Festival: when you have challenges in life you have to look them in the face and be scared and still go through with it.
We can all be superheroes, if we truly want to be.