Coinciding with Latino Heritage Month, a free screening and discussion on the documentary film “Harvest of Empire,” which traces the Latino experience in the United States, will be held on Thursday, Oct. 17, in the University Theater at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB).
The film features present-day immigrant stories, rarely seen archival material and interviews with such figures as Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Rigoberta Menchú, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Junot Díaz, Mexican historian Lorenzo Meyer, journalists Maria Hinojosa and Geraldo Rivera, Grammy award-winning singer Luis Enrique and poet Martín Espada.
The film was directed by Eduardo Lopez, co-founder of EVS Communications and producer of the award-winning Spanish-language TV series “Linea Directa,” and written by journalist Juan Gonzalez, whose book by the same name is one of the most popular texts in Latino studies.
Prior to the screening, there will be an address by longtime activist and founder of the La Raza Party Jose Angel Gutierrez beginning at 5 p.m. The film is set to begin at 7 p.m., and there will be a discussion on the documentary, featuring screening organizer Victor Rodriguez, associate professor of Chicano and Latino studies; faculty member Amy Cabrera Rasmussen from the CSULB Political Science Department; and Filipino community activist Joanne Concepcion.
“’Harvest of Empire’ is probably the best documentary produced about the Latino experience in the United States,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve been disappointed by other documentaries about the Latino experience because they string together discrete facts that are not connected to each other. They don’t provide a frame of reference for the viewer to make sense of it all. That is something that doesn’t happen here.”
The documentary deals with fundamental questions about immigration to the United States. “The interviews do a pretty good job of helping viewers understand why Cubans come here, why Puerto Ricans, why Central Americans and why Mexicans come here. Why do citizens of 21 Latin nations come here? “Rodriguez asked. “When I screen this film for my students, they come out with expressions of surprise.”
The most recent U.S. Census Bureau projections indicate that Latinos are one in six of the U.S. population in 2013 and are projected to increase to one in three by the year 2060.
Rodriguez wants those in attendance to leave the screening with a better comprehension of how complicated the issue of immigration is. “I want audiences to share the experiences of this film’s subjects,” he said. “I hope this film adds to the audience’s understanding of the social challenges facing the United States today.”
With October being Latino Heritage Month, Rodriquez believes this a good time to focus on the topic of immigration.
“This film counters all the information about the issue with which we are bombarded every day,” he noted. “This is a good time for this screening but the documentary provides its viewers with more than just a general cultural sensitivity. It is both an analytical documentary and a beautiful film. If you want to have an hour and a half of excellent filmmaking that tells a powerful story, this is the film to watch.”
The screening and address beforehand are free. However, those interested in attending are asked to make reservations by calling Espie Contreras in the CSULB Chicano and Latino Studies Department at 562/985-4644.