¡Palante, Siempre Palante! The Young Lords (1996)
Directed by Iris Morales
This informative and vital 50-minute-long documentary (which originally premiered on PBS) focuses on the Young Lords, a US-based group of Puerto Rican social activists that formed in 1968 with a Black Panthers-inspired eye towards uplifting oppressed people. The film combines archival footage with firsthand testimony from former Young Lords (including the filmmaker) to recall the group’s history, from its beginnings engaged in organizing free breakfasts in East Harlem and seizing government-owned brooms for the purpose of street cleaning, through an increasing broadening of ideas on how to achieve revolution and claim a free Puerto Rican identity, until divisions into factions led to dissolution in 1976. The film’s title, taken from the Young Lords’s newsletter, is a contraction of the Spanish words for “forward!”, and it evokes a spirit that remains relevant today.
“I was a community activist and member of the Young Lords, which represented a new generation of Puerto Rican activists in the United States,” says Morales, who has also written a recent book about the Young Lords, and who will participate in a talkback following the Maysles film screening. “In the mid-1980s, I was running a youth video training program in New York City. We couldn’t find films about the participation of Puerto Ricans and Latino/as in the social justice movements of the 1960s. The young people in the program encouraged me to produce ¡Palante, Siempre Palante! The Young Lords in order to fill this void.
“From the start, I knew that I wanted the members of the Young Lords to be the film’s narrators, and to relate our experiences from the inside out, collectively. My goal was to make the history accessible to young people, especially Latino/as who rarely saw themselves represented in a positive light, and especially in film. I wanted young people to see themselves as agents of positive social change. The past peoples’ movements contain lessons of successes and failures that can inform the ongoing struggle for justice and human rights. I continue to believe in the power of the people to create a society that works for the benefit of the many, instead of for the few.” Aaron Cutler (January 22, 5pm at the Maysles Cinema)