Weaving the Past: Journey of Discovery
Initially, Walter Dominguez comes off as a cliché: a liberal baby boomer facing midlife crisis as his remaining idealism is crushed by post-9/11 military intervention. The disillusioned Dominguez turns to the memory of his grandfather Emilio Hernandez, a Methodist minister with a strong social conscience, who was also the epitome of kindness. But it’s only when Dominguez begins to investigate Hernandez’s early life in Mexico (before Emilio became the beloved father figure Tata) that the lengthy Weaving the Past: Journey of Discovery really gets moving.
Dominguez follows two lines of research, looking for the family Emilio left behind as a boy and discovering the one he adopted as a young man. Weaving the Past views the Porfiriato, an era of nation building and tyranny, through the perspective of journalist and revolutionary leader Práxedis Guerrero. Although his family owned the hacienda where Emilio came to work, Práxedis rejected its plantation system and the power structure of dictator Porfirio Díaz. Emilio became the anarchist’s close friend and eager disciple.
At 126 minutes, Weaving the Past is both engaging and indulgent, shifting between the personal and political, the historical and contemporary. Dominguez blends serendipitous encounters with traditional interviews and re-creations starring a charismatic Práxedis. (A feature biopic is planned.) Dominguez’s ambitious first documentary draws parallels between anarchists and Methodists, and explores Mexico at the turn of the 20th century with an activist’s fervor. Walter Dominguez may have followed in his grandfather’s footsteps from revolution to religion, but he found his own salvation in storytelling.
Review by Serena Donadoni
Released August 15, 2014
First published in LA Weekly, 2014.