Starring Michael Pena, Rosario Dawson, America Ferrara, John Malkovich; directed by Diego Luna; 100 minutes; PG-13 for some violence and language; B

"Cesar Chavez" is a Mexican-American "42," a quietly inspiring and well-acted tale of a civil rights icon whose story isn't nearly as familiar as Jackie Robinson's. But then, Chavez wasn't a ballplayer. He was a union organizer. And while Robinson, with some reluctance, had nobility and greatness thrust upon him, Chavez was a humble farm laborer who set out to be an agent of change.

Like "42," "Cesar Chavez" lacks the budget to feel truly epic in scope. The violence is scattered, shocking and personal, the struggles within the union muted, but the outrage - cops rioting against picketers, thugs shooting and running over organizers - is palpable. And Michael Pena, in the title role, finds the simple dignity in a very basic struggle, to give "these people" faces and names, to make America notice them and to teach a culture one simple, elemental lesson: "Once a social change begins, it cannot be reversed."

Roger Moore, McClatchy Newspapers