It's unlikely that anyone was clamoring for a good, solid documentary about the events surrounding the great 1979 onion strike of Raymondville, Texas. But to his credit, director Hart Perry goes beyond tracking a failed labor movement, weaving his intimate footage into a broader tapestry that illustrates the struggles of Mexican-American farm laborers attempting to gain recognition and representation in their Texas county. Perry's documentary Valley Of Tears is organized into loosely related sections–one detailing the onion-pickers' strike over below-sustenance wages, a second following the attempted election of a Mexican-American representative to the local school board, and a third watching the hubbub over a controversial county district attorney who clashes publicly with the county-government clique. Perry takes a kitchen-sink approach to his film, throwing in environmental footage, candid home scenes, and Raymondville citizens' colorful reminiscences about their town, including a bizarre story from a former mayor who recalls a group of "25 or 30" murder suspects being slaughtered en masse by some unidentified lawmen at an indistinct point in his childhood. This combination of fascinating history and vague detail plagues Valley Of Tears: Its stream-of-consciousness route doesn't always pin down its chronological parameters, or fill in the factual blanks in some of its stories. Perry compensates with intriguing interviews (most significantly with strike leader Juanita Valdez, who insists that the broken strike and other subsequent setbacks were not losses, because they led to the community's political awakening), and with riveting footage of low-key clashes between Raymondville's politically active but disenfranchised Hispanic citizens and its resentful good-old-boy power-brokers, who loom, glower, sneer, and threaten. Even at 79 scant minutes, Valley Of Tears drags in spots and lurches in others, as Perry jumps from thought to thought with little sense of drive or conscious intent. But that same lack of intent translates into a fairly evenhanded film, in which both sides are allowed to speak for themselves, rather than having their positions narrated or shaped for them. Not everything Perry's voices say seems relevant to his central thesis, but they speak fervently and colorfully, and their intensity is compelling even when their message is lacking.