It takes a great deal of determination, love and energy to document the search for one’s heritage. Once achieved, the result is more than just a collection of facts, but also a spiritual encounter with the past. That has been the journey undertaken by filmmaker Walter Dominguez in the documentary “Weaving the Past: Journey of Discovery”.
As a young man, Dominguez was inspired by his grandfather Emilio (also known as Tata), one of the most prominent and beloved Mexican Methodist ministers in idyllic Santa Paula in rural Southern California. A community leader known for his generous heart and kind spirit, Tata died in 1973. Three decades later, Dominguez would pick up his camera to begin uncovering the long-hidden secrets of Tata’s early days.
With the production efforts of wife Shelley Morrison (an actress known for her role as Rosario on the sitcom “Will and Grace”), Dominguez helmed a 12-year documentary tracing the clues of Tata’s past, filmed in a variety of locations from the border town of El Paso to the rural mountains of Mexico. His research discovers Tata’s role in the Mexican revolutionary movement, supporting Mexico’s most courageous citizen warriors in an effort to expel the notorious dictator Porfirio Díaz.
On the evening of May 18, the filmmaker and his wife unveiled this latest work at Linwood Dunn Theater in Hollywood as a special screening to benefit the Museum of Social Justice. The event began with their arrival among a red carpet entourage of Hollywood celebrities including Kate Flannery (“The Office”), Michael Di Lorenzo (“New York Undercover”), Gabriela Diaz (Latina model and commercial actress), Sondra Currie (“The Hanover” trilogy), Kate Linder (“The Young and the Restless”) and family and friends of the production team.
Preceding the viewing, Dr. Rennie B. Schoepflin (Social Justice Museum Board of Directors and CSULA Associate Dean/Professor) availed himself in the lobby to answer questions about the film and its importance relating to social justice values:
Q: What is the relation and contribution of this film to the museum and the community in general?
A: The documentary echoes social justice themes within one man’s quest to uncover his grandfather’s life. The Museum creation is a way to share with a diverse community such as Los Angeles a vast archive of historical events that have led to an increased knowledge among the community in regards to social justice themes.
Q: Why and how does the museum plan to offer these facts to the public?
A: The intention is to clarify and expand our understanding of the beliefs and practices of those who have gone before us. Preserving their history and using those tools to promote justice for those specific factors that still require fighting for within our community.
Q: How can new members benefit from the Museum of Social Justice?
A: The Museum and Education Center are home to a series of diverse Public Programs and Education Initiatives. Such as: Public History and Community Engagement, which is a capstone of the undergraduate history major at CSULA. At the end of the program, students will apply the skills they have learned to address the role of public history in civic life and the engagement of community participants in historical projects outside the classroom or The Immigrant Media Initiative which encompasses a series of comprehensive courses for young adults of immigrant backgrounds. It is designed to enable and empower ethnic minorities in the Los Angeles region to break into this area’s highly coveted entertainment and media industries. Through classroom instruction, immersive on-the-job training, computer-assisted interactive tutoring and mentorship opportunities with industry professionals, it will prepare a new and more diverse generation of media content producers to address the need for greater diversity and multiculturalism in media-related industries.
Upon being seated in the theater room, the director thanked guests for honoring his work and formally introduced “Weaving the Past”, raising the curtain.
The documentary features painfully researched archival material and lovingly constructed re-enactments of past events (starring many of Dominguez’s younger relatives as their ancestors). Viewers witness a remarkable odyssey into a painful past that offers a redeeming and sometimes comical story of faith in life; trials and triumphs within a provocative and profound legacy. The documentary adds (to renown Mexican-American contributions) a vital historical background on current immigration issues through a straightforward narrative style that powerfully captures the perspective of relevant participants.
At the end of the film, the hosts (who evoked the warm environment of a family gathering) stood beside the door to personally address and thank each departing guest. The couple, who have been married almost 40 years, are already at work on their second documentary, “Whitewashed Adobe: The Rise of Los Angeles,” a story about the history of LA from 1850-1950.
More information about Weaving The Past and The Museum of Social Justice is available online.