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Gilroy
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January 31, 2023

Guest View: Highlighting unsung heroes

Growing up in Gilroy and coming from a campesino family, viewing such an impactful and humane story this past August, via a short documentary film, “Campesinos, America’s Unsung Heroes,” was an emotional and very moving experience. The audience reaction, many so personal, will forever be molded into our hearts. This film was just completed in January and already has garnered seven significant awards.

After hearing from the film’s producer, Alex Ontiveros, founder and CEO of Silicon Valley Latino, in March of this year, where he asked if our communities in South County would be interested in viewing the film, I reviewed the short film trailer and was quite impressed. I contacted Alex and the filmmaker, Joe Poni, and told them I would try to find a venue, date and presenting sponsor for a future screening. My first step was to look for a sponsor, and the Latino Family Fund agreed to serve as sponsor. Next came the venue and after trying several, Paul Gunsky and his team at CineLux Theatre agreed to provide their theater free of charge.

Our Gilroy film screening was on Aug 11, and the event was completely sold out with so many more wanting to view it. Among the moving responses from audience members, I include the following: “This film really brings to the surface the farmworker’s dignity and self-respect;” “I want so many more people to see this as they will find the humanity in our campesinos;” “Not only is this story so educational and compelling, but the cinematography was incredibly beautiful.”

Ontiveros shared that the idea of creating this film came from the pandemic and how they noticed the campesino was not really being noticed as an essential worker. 

“We are not sharing this film with our local communities to make money but to ‘educate’ as many as possible so that we can all learn how important and essential our campesinos (fieldworkers) are to our communities and economy,” Ontiveros said.

The filmmaker, Joe Poni, added, “This film took a very long time in developing and there were many weather-related challenges in filming and gaining the trust of the farmworkers in the fields.”

Critical in that regard was the assistance of ALAS, Ayudando Latinos a Sonar. They are a Bay Area advocacy organization for the campesino.

I want to acknowledge the Latino Family Fund for their support as presenting sponsor, ticket sales, and guest list management. In particular, I acknowledge Jaclyn Muro, executive director of LFF, for her selfless generosity and time in working with me to make this film screening a reality. Our community is so grateful to the CineLux team making their theater available and working closely with us on logistics, both in Gilroy and Morgan Hill.

The Morgan Hill screening on Sept. 22 also sold out. Again, I thank those who generously gave of their time and resources to make this possible; CineLux Theatre Team Morgan Hill, Silicon Valley Latino for producing and making the film available, and the Edward Boss Prado Foundation for their generosity in sponsoring and managing the setup committee. 

Stay tuned for a future film screening.

Ernesto Olivares is a longtime Gilroy resident and youth mentor in philanthropy, leadership and community service.

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