'Weaving the Past' an exhaustive tribute to a beloved grandfather

It would be easy to dub the documentary "Weaving the Past: Journey of Discovery" a kind of ultimate vanity project. That is, if the film — written, produced and directed by Walter Dominguez — weren't such a painstakingly crafted, lovingly wrought piece.

But the filmmaker, who clearly spent years and traveled untold miles to research and reconstruct the multilayered story of his beloved grandfather Emilio "Tata" Hernandez, who died in 1973 at age 84, did perhaps too thorough a job with his task. Although the details of how the Mexican-born Hernandez was taken in as a child by a wealthy family, later made his way to America and eventually became a leading Methodist pastor are well laid out and supported, there's simply too much information.


The result is an often diffused and overlong unraveling. A particularly large chunk explores the twisty path of Hernandez's childhood friend Práxedis Guerrero, who became a key insurgent leader in the Mexican revolution and, surprisingly, engaged Hernandez in the landmark effort. It's interesting stuff but could be the basis for its own film.

Dominguez, spun into a self-described midlife crisis after 9/11, says he decided to learn more about his saintly grandfather's deeper past as a way to regain his own sense of purpose. But the now-67 filmmaker, who appears throughout and gently narrates, reveals so little about his own life outside this project that it somehow mitigates the urgency and breadth of his quest.

On the plus side, Dominguez weaves a rich tapestry of visuals, including archival photos and footage, family memorabilia and interviews with a vast number of his relatives, many of whom Dominguez discovers along the way, as he assembles the missing puzzle pieces of Hernandez's youth. Chats with historians, detective-like tours throughout rural and urban Mexico, and credible if expendable dramatic reenactments complete this touching, exhaustive tribute.

"Weaving the Past: Journey of Discovery."

No MPAA rating.

Running time: 2 hours, 6 minutes. In English and Spanish with English subtitles.

At Laemmle's Playhouse 7, Pasadena.