Break of Dawn: Tribute to Misunderstood Hero, Pedro J. Gonzalez

Isaac Artenstein’s Break of Dawn pays tribute to a misunderstood hero, Pedro J. Gonzalez, a star in the Latino community.

Based in San Diego, Artenstein first made a documentary about Gonzalez, then decided to treat the story as a feature.

One of the century’s more remarkable characters, Gonzales was, over the course of his life Pancho Villa’s telegrapher, illegal alien, singing host of a celebrated radio show, victim of a bogus rape charge, inmate at San Quentin before the “rapee” recanted, and border radio star for 30 years. When the movie was made, Gonzalez, 96, was living with his wife of 70 years in Lodi, California.

The film describes racism of the most blatant kind. When politicians railed against Mexican migrants for stealing American jobs, reportedly half a million people were deported in a fury of hateful retaliation. Gonzalez’s radio show rallied the Spanish language-audience, creating a political force. When Gonzales protested the deportation policy, the power structure fought back.

Starring Mexican actor Oscar Chavez as Gonzalez, the film’s villain is too simplistic but it displays charm and affecting music from Chavez.