AUDIENCE AWARD FOR BEST DOCUMENTARY - San Diego Latino Film Festival | JURY AWARD - Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival | HIGHLY RECOMMENDED - Educational Media Reviews Online
Latinx Studies • American History • Ethnomusicology • Social Movements • Spanish • Chicana/o Studies • Border Studies • Sociology • Ethnic Studies • Anthropology • Labor
Date of Completion: 2018/2022 | Run Time: 86 and 59 minutes. The 86 min DVD of the film has 10 chapters and, if necessary, can be viewed in two class sessions: Chapters 1-5 = 42 minutes, Chapters 6-10 = 43 minutes | Language: English & Spanish with English subtitles, Spanish subtitles available | Captions: Yes | Includes: Transcript | Director: Paul Espinosa | Producers: Paul Espinosa, Mark Day & Michael Bovee | Writer: Paul Espinosa | Editor: Maria Zeiss | Cinematographers: Vicente Franco & Simone Hogan | Narrator: Alma Martinez | Score: Quetzal Flores
SINGING OUR WAY TO FREEDOM chronicles the life and music of Ramon “Chunky” Sanchez from his humble beginnings as a farmworker in Blythe, California to the dramatic moment when he received one of his nation’s highest musical honors at the Library of Congress in Washington DC. As a young man in the 1970s, Chunky joined the picket lines in California and became Cesar Chavez’s favorite musician. His journey is a remarkable lens on a time when young Mexican Americans became Chicanos. Chunky learned how to employ humor, honesty and music to inspire folks to stand up and speak truth to power. His arc of transformation from marginalized farm kid to charismatic social activist shows how one person can mobilize people to change the world, reminding us that the battle for freedom has to be fought anew by every generation.
Educational Media Reviews Online | Reviewed by Elena Landry, George Mason Libraries, Fairfax, VA
"Espinosa’s story of Chunky Sanchez is possibly the most enjoyable documentary I’ve ever seen, as entertaining as it is inspiring, and I’d recommend it to anyone."
Video Librarian | Reviewed by Ashley Sosa
"Singing Our Way to Freedom is a joyous affair that celebrates Chunky's legacy and the spirit of the Chicano movement, reminding us of the power of music to transform and unite."
Ethnomusicology | Martha Gonzalez, Associate Professor of Chicanx-Latinx Studies, Scripps / Claremont College
"No one is more loved and revered than the late Ramon “Chunky” Sanchez in the sonic landscape of Chicano/a music history, musical repertoire, and career trajectory ... Family members, music colleagues, ethnomusicologists, Chicano music experts, and past and current students in the movement all give testimony to the ways in which Chunky’s music is educational, humorous, inspirational, and an invaluable archive that chronicles one of the most important times in Mexican American and Chicano/a history in the United States."
Western Washington University | James Loucky, Professor of Anthropology
"Rarely is a film as inspirational and informative as Singing our Way to Freedom by veteran filmmaker Paul Espinosa. Tracing the life of musician-activist Ramón 'Chunky' Sánchez, its visual retrospectives and remarkable soundtrack simultaneously illuminate the vision and vibrancy of the struggle for rights and legitimacy that became known as the Movimiento Chicano – the Chicanx movement in the region we today know as the border, and California, and the Southwest. It is invaluable for audiences and classes of history, anthropology, and community organizing."
Video Librarian | Ashley Sosa
"[Chunky] wrote and sang from the heart, expressing the joys and sorrows of his community in a way that always sought to uplift and unite ... Singing Our Way to Freedom is a joyous affair that celebrates Chunky's legacy and the spirit of the Chicano movement, reminding us of the power of music to transform and unite. Recommended."
Western Washington University | Francisco Rios, Dean and Professor, College of Education
"What I most appreciated about Singing Our Way to Freedom is that it provides viewers a chance to see how Latinx identity has changed, grown, and evolved over time, as experienced by this community cultural icon: Ramón 'Chunky' Sánchez. It reminds me that our cultural/ethnic identities are dynamic, contextual, and political. And there’s no better way to be reminded of these than this video filled with history and song."
University of California, Santa Cruz | Olga Nájera-Ramírez, Professor of Anthropology
"Singing Our Way to Freedom is a compelling documentary that vividly captures the life of the charismatic musician and activist Ramón 'Chunky' Sánchez. Highlighting the power of music, the film provides vivid vignettes that contextualize the cultural and political ambiance of the Chicano Movement in which this musical legend carved out his career. This remarkable documentary will prove invaluable to students of history, music, cultural studies, American Studies, and ethnic studies."
California State University San Marcos | Kristine Diekman, Professor, Art and Technology
"Singing Our Way to Freedom awoke student interest through the intersection of music, history and activism. The diverse student population today (in our border region) is eager to learn more about the culture around them. Music and storytelling appeal to students, and this film masterfully brings important historical knowledge to students using these strategies."
University of Arizona | Maurice Rafael Magaña, Associate Professor of Mexican American Studies
"Singing Our Way to Freedom captures the extraordinary beauty and power of Ramón 'Chunky' Sánchez - the human being and the musician. The filmmakers manage to simultaneously honor Chunky's unique legacy as a groundbreaking Chicano musician and community organizer, while also providing the important historical context that shaped, and was shaped by, Chunky's life, music, and activism. An essential film for understanding U.S. history, popular culture, and civil rights struggles, and a long overdue homage to the legendary Chunky Sánchez."
University of Maryland | Sharada Balachandran Orihuela, Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature
"Singing Our Way to Freedom is an invaluable addition to any course examining Chicano art and its significance in the achievement of Chicano civil rights. By focusing on Ramón 'Chunky' Sánchez’s contribution to Chicano music, as well as his significant role as a community activist, Paul Espinosa tells a powerful story about Chicano resistance in the 1960s in ways that resonate with today’s immigrant rights movement. This film is both a delight to watch while also being extremely teachable and informative."
San Diego State University | María Ibarra, Associate Professor & Department Chair of Chicana & Chicano Studies
"Chunky Sánchez’s life represents that quest for freedom that just keeps starting over every day. He didn’t stop in 1970 but kept on teaching, inspiring, working and singing his way to freedom. Artists like Chunky became our storytellers and historians, telling the stories that were nowhere else to be found."
Arizona State University | Rudy P. Guevarra Jr., Associate Professor & Honors Faculty, School of Social Transformation
"Singing Our Way to Freedom is a powerful film that demonstrates the wide-ranging impact Ramón 'Chunky' Sánchez made over his life to issues of social and economic justice that remain with us today. His dedication to our communities and messages of love, cultural pride, and empowerment will live on through his music for generations to come. Rest in Power Chunky Sánchez!"
University of California, Santa Cruz | Russell C. Rodríguez, Assistant Professor of Music
"The film’s focus on the power of music and its impact on the Chicano civil rights movement frames and makes evident the significance of these artists. The integration of Sánchez’ music as a soundscape to the film also illuminates the diverse influences Chunky absorbed growing up Chicano in California. The film is a gem."
San José State University | Eduardo Muñoz, Assistant Professor, Department of Teacher Education
"The documentary flipped pocho and pochismo upside down, with a sense of dignity and joy of life that is inspirational to teachers of US-born Latinos. Chunky's life ignites a call for action in a time of deep divisions. Few times has a guitar and a voice done so much for so many. The film invites me to say: Sí se puede, sí se canta!"
Chiricú Journal: Latina/o Literatures, Arts, and Cultures
"Narrated by Alma Martinez, the documentary appeals to audiences of American history, ethnic studies, social justice movements, ethnomusicology, cultural anthropology, and labor studies. It is also a complement to the scholarship about the role of the visual arts in the Chicano Movement, particularly since those narratives favor the binary that artists must choose between the market (read success) and politics. Ramon “Chunky” Sanchez’s music proves otherwise: he consistently made music in support of social justice while fostering broad appeal among diverse audiences and transforming people’s lives."
San Diego State University | Coral MacFarland Thuet, Lecturer, Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies
"Singing Our Way to Freedom is an excellent film on the contributions of Ramón 'Chunky' Sánchez, the legendary musician and Chicano activist, and the history of the Chicano Movement. It is an invaluable source of information for students in the field of Mexican and Chicano music, and the Civil Rights Movements in the U.S. I highly recommend this film."
University of California, Santa Cruz | John Jota Leaños, Media Artist and Social-Art Practitioner
"A sonic journey through the California-Mexico borderlands, Singing Our Way to Freedom recalls the captivating life of a unique Chicano artist, Chunky Sánchez. From San Diego to Blythe, Tijuana to Mexico City, veteran documentary filmmaker Paul Espinosa reconstructs El Movimiento Chicano in a reflection of how art and music work to activate and empower communities of color."
Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival Jury
"Expertly presents a compelling narrative that brings to light a human rights issue needing more awareness. Effectively uses Chunky’s music, his recollections and interviews with people who knew him to create a vibrant biography of an activist who should not, and now cannot be forgotten."
Student, California State University San Marcos
"Utilizing the film medium that most people can relate to is a great way to explore Chicano culture. I really appreciated the way the cultural, social, and historical information was presented as a context for Chunky’s life struggles and triumphs. It was presented to explain things in the film that you may not understand, especially those of us not being of that culture. In that format, it really did help to open people’s minds to other cultures without being told how they should feel."
Audience Award for Best Documentary | San Diego Latino Film Festival
Best Frontera Feature | San Diego Latino Film Festival
Jury Award | Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival
Official Selection | Festival Internacional de Cine en Guadalajara
Official Selection | San Francisco Latino Film Festival
Closing Day Film | Cine Las Americas International Film Festival
Opening Night Film | Watsonville Film Festival
Official Selection | San Antonio CineFestival
Official Selection | Seattle Latino Film Festival
Official Selection | Olympia Film Festival
Official Selection | Cine-Mas Lone Star Film Festival
Official Selection | Awareness Film Festival
Official Selection | OC Film Fiesta
Official Selection | Ciclo de Cine Chicano, Tijuana
Latin American Studies Association Conference
Smithsonian National Museum of American History
California Association of Bilingual Education Conference
Association of Borderlands Studies National Conference
Latino Studies Conference in Washington DC
UC San Diego
University of Arizona
University of Barcelona
San Diego State University
California State University, San Marcos
University of Denver
Puente Statewide Conference
Denver Public Library
Phoenix Art Museum
REQUEST A GOOD TALK WITH PAUL ESPINOSA
Director of SINGING OUR WAY TO FREEDOM
Paul Espinosa is an Emmy award-winning documentary filmmaker and educator who has been making films for nearly 40 years. Paul wrote, directed and produced SINGING OUR WAY TO FREEDOM. His films explore a wide variety of social and historical issues including school desegregation, immigration, the US-Mexico border, the Mexican Revolution, the lives of undocumented families, gentrification and the 1846 war between Mexico and the United States. Paul's films have been screened at festivals around the world and have won many awards including eight Emmys and major awards from the Santa Barbara, Guadalajara, Minneapolis and Houston International Film Festivals, San Antonio CineFestival, the San Diego Latino Film Festival, the National Latino Film and Video Festival, the American Bar Association, the California Teacher's Association, the California School Boards Association, the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Conference on Christians and Jews.
Espinosa received his Ph.D. from Stanford University and his B.A. from Brown University, both degrees in Anthropology. He is a Professor Emeritus in the School of Transborder Studies at Arizona State University and has shared his expertise, experience and social activism at festivals, universities and community centers across the Americas. He has received major funding from many agencies including the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Ford Foundation, ITVS, American Playhouse, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Latino Public Broadcasting, the California Public Broadcasting Commission and the state humanities councils of California, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. Among his films for PBS are: The Lemon Grove Incident, The Hunt for Pancho Villa, ...and the earth did not swallow him, The U.S.-Mexican War: 1846-1848, The Price of Renewal, In the Shadow of the Law, The Border, Uneasy Neighbors, 1492 Revisited, and Ballad of an Unsung Hero.