DIRECTOR'S STATEMENT

 

Born in Santiago, Chile, I came to the US in 1972 at the age of 16. I started my television career 39 years ago as a reporter, writer, working up to producer, and eventually news director and news anchor. Now, as a filmmaker, I am pursuing my passion for feature films.  I find it liberating and less restrictive than documentaries or news. I like to tell stories that make people think about the world from a different perspective, as was the case with my opera prima "The Other Barrio", and now Huelga!


As a reporter in 1987, I had the rare opportunity to sit down and interview Cesar Chavez at length in his UFW office in Delano, California for a newspaper feature, and then in 1994, I wrote and produced a Telemundo network television documentary about his life to commemorate the first anniversary of his passing, so when I read Bonnie Hearn Hill's novel "Huelga House" I connected with the story right away. But what hooked me was the plot. The farm worker struggles of 1965 as seen through the eyes of a young privileged grape grower's son, literally as seen from other side of the tracks.  It is through his character's arc that the real story of social injustice, hate, prejudice and abuse of power comes to life.  It was a great read, with a story I can identify with, in both, setting and theme.  An all-around good match for my next writing project. I contacted Bonnie and soon thereafter, we were meeting at Café Trieste, my favorite San Francisco coffee shop, hammering out an option agreement, triggering the process of adapting the book into a screenplay. 

 

To bring out the darkness of hate and discrimination in the character’s souls, this story needs to be painted with a film noir brush, adding grittiness and high contrast to accentuate life in the hot and extreme conditions of California’s central valley, where the story takes place. This visual approach immerses the audience into the story environment, and the gloom of the character’s souls. The story arch is supported by the music sound track as we start listening to the typical country ballads of the American farmland, transitioning so discretely into the urban, frenetic, social dissent sound of the era’s rock and roll.

 

With today’s ever growing debate about immigration, worker’s rights, racism and discrimination, Huelga! becomes ever so relevant, in that it reflects back to society issues that have lingered on for decades, not only in the fields, but across the country, and at different levels of our society. We’ve been dealing with these social issues through generations, not being able to come to terms with, or be able to find a path to resolve them. This story is a window to our own shortcomings in hopes that we can face them and realize that hate is destroying us individually and as a society, and that no good comes from intolerance, offering a different path as an alternative.

 

I'm thrilled at the opportunity of taking Bonnie Hearn Hill's “Huelga House” to the big screen, and be able to tell the story to new and wider audiences.

 

 

Dante Betteo
Writer/Director

 

© 2014 by ATACAMA FILMS, LLC.