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Four Reasons 2014 Will Be the Year of the Immigrant on Film (VIDEO)

Photo of Matt Brennan By Matt Brennan | Thompson on Hollywood! January 27, 2014 at 1:24PM

From reportorial nonfiction to epic drama, from the couch to the art house, immigrants past and present will be at the forefront of 2014's film offerings -- not to mention your cable news network of choice. As the Congressional debate over immigration reform heats up and the midterm election gears begin to turn, here are four things to watch for:
Michael Pena in 'Cesar Chavez'
Michael Pena in 'Cesar Chavez'

3. One of the year's most anticipated biopics has everything to do with immigration, whether the film's backers like it or not.

Executives for Participant Media, set to release "Cesar Chavez: An American Hero" (starring Michael Pena) on March 28, may consider immigration policy "apart from" the film's narrative, which follows the Arizona-born labor icon's leadership of the 1965 Delano, California farm workers' strike and the national grape boycott that accompanied it. (Richard Ray Perez's documentary about Chavez's spiritual devotion to the cause, "Cesar's Last Fast," screened at Sundance.)

But "Y Tu Mama Tambien" heartthrob Diego Luna's drama is not only a transnational production, funded in part by Luna, Pablo Cruz, and Gael Garcia Bernal's Mexico City-based Canana Films and shot on location in the Mexican state of Sonora. It's also the most visible film yet to depict the United Farm Workers, a union that counted numerous Mexican and Filipino immigrants and first-generation Americans among its rank-and-file. Whether the film engages the complications of Chavez's own changing views on unauthorized immigrants and guest workers or hews to the traditional biopic's more straightforward arc remains to be seen. Either way, "Cesar Chavez: An American Hero" promises, in the current political climate, to provoke debate.

This article is related to: Reviews, TV, DVD and VOD, Interviews , Features, Genres, Documentaries, Drama, Directors, Diego Luna, Michael Peña, James Gray, Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix, Two Lovers, Jeremy Renner, The Immigrant, Cannes

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.