PLAYING AT SIFF | Brisk pace of ‘Dolores’ fitting of activist’s work

In its first half hour, “Dolores” moves at a near breakneck speed. But it’s not solely the fault of the documentary; after all, it’s just trying to keep up with its namesake.

Dolores Huerta — the “most vocal activist you’ve never heard of,” a “great lobbyist, infatiguable, unorthodox,” a mother, a farm-rights unionizer, a tireless crusader — has led a life. Now 87, her career spans from the 1950s onwards, using those decades of work to change the game for farmers and change laws for the United States. In order to even attempt to fit her accomplishments and work into an hour-and-a-half documentary, “Dolores” needs to move a brisk pace.

From the very beginning credit sequence we see the astonishing breadth of her life and work (if you can really separate them at all for such a devoted powerhouse) through the years, cut between excerpts of interviews about her. It can, at times during the movie, feel like a bit of a short change: We never get a sense of how time is passing, how long each boycott lasts or what the exact conditions are. Demonstration after demonstration whizzes by and we are just trying to take in the insight shared by Dolores and her supporters.

That it whizzes by is a detriment perhaps, but one of few. It’s clear in the way the film accepts her perspective as a foregone conclusion, stopping only to bring the audience up to speed on what Dolores was fighting against, that the filmmakers intended this documentary to be the start of the journey, rather than the end.

The documentary’s main aim, it seems, is to introduce you to the woman who coined “Si se puede” (Yes we can) as a slogan and co-founded the nation’s first farmworkers union, and it does so with a unique visual style. Director Peter Bratt and his team have unearthed an astonishing amount of stock footage for their film, matched only by the number of people willing to come forward and talk about how Dolores changed their life. Together, these two threads tie together decades of work and collection, chronicling her tireless work in the face of discrimination.

And so the movie is divided up into unofficial chunks of some explanation: How farm workers saw themselves before and after her work, how her children saw themselves during her work, how feminists saw themselves reflected in her work. Dolores is constantly at the center, whether she’s in black and white or living color.

Instead of overwhelming the narrative, it gives “Dolores” a distinctive sense of how many fronts she was fighting at any given point. “Movements not only affect laws, they affect your sense of self,” Angela Davis shares midway through the movie, concisely sharing what exactly it meant to Dolores and all she fought for to be so deep in the fight: Change comes from those who fight for it, and Dolores Huerta was breathing the fight for it.

Perhaps the biggest success of “Dolores” is capturing the spirit of its namesake, charging forward with unabashed passion in informing an audience. It’s ultimately up to the viewer whether they support Dolores’ fight, but she and her film have earned their place in the history books.