Director: Edward James Olmos
Angered by the prejudicial and inhumane treatment faced by Mexican-Americans in her 1968 East Los Angeles high school where administrators use paddles to beat kids who speak Spanish and lock the bathrooms at lunch time forcing desperate classmates to urinate in the bushes, honor student Paula Crisostomo (Alexa Vega) decides to fight back. Although her grades and intellect make her one of the two percent of Chicanos during that time period who would probably continue on to higher education, Paula rejects the idea of simply coasting through her senior year and, inspired by her compassionate teacher Sal Castro (the wonderful Michael Peña), joins other students from all five East L.A. high schools to stage a walkout in the hopes of bringing about change. Risking threats of expulsion and dishonoring her proud father, Paula sticks to her convictions and although the student movement begins peacefully, soon, fearing intimidation by number exhibited in other protests of the era, law enforcement officials begin to attack and arrest, sending some high schoolers to jail and others to hospitals but the walkouts continue until finally the school board begins to listen… although not before Paula and her cohorts inspire the entire nation. The fact-based HBO film is a moving human drama directed with passion by Edward James Olmos (who also plays a small role) and it’s a wonderful contribution to the genre of civil rights era cinema, especially because-- as the students are taught in the film—without any visual or written proof, it’s as though it didn’t happen and the East L.A. walkouts are a chapter of that tumultuous 1968 that hasn’t really been publicized over the years. Olmos's Walkout is well worth a rental and the end of the film is filled with updates and interviews with the actual participants in the walkouts that helps give viewers a sense of the impact the protests had on the rest of their lives.