By Alicia Hamar
In the upcoming film “Cesar Chavez,” director Diego Luna chronicles the birth of a large-scale grassroots American labor movement. The eponymous Chavez devoted his life to improving working conditions for farm growers, an effort that brought international attention to the basic human rights denied to workers picking grapes in Delano, California. The Daily sat down with Luna for an exclusive discussion of the film and its future implications.
The Stanford Daily (TSD): What inspired you to direct this film?
Diego Luna (DL): The life of Cesar Chavez is a story that must be told. He was a man who dedicated his life to accomplishing change in a community that really needed it. He helped a community that was being poorly treated by instilling confidence and providing them with dignity. I think it’s a story that can inspire people to bring change to their own communities. This is something indispensable because there are still many injustices that are faced in this country, this community, and in the countryside.
TSD: How can this film help with the current situation regarding immigration and the DREAM Act?
DL: I think this film can contribute by adding to the current pressure for immigration reform. When the public leaves the theater, people can ask themselves about how the food gets to their table: What’s behind that carrot or that potato that they are eating, or that orange they make their juice with in the morning? What’s behind the process for the food to get to them? When people start asking these questions, inevitably it’s going to cause them to reflect. [This film is] important so that a question about immigration reform can be brought up.
TSD: Do you plan on making more movies that show the Hispanic struggle in Latin America or the U.S. after this one?
DL: I don’t know what’s next. I definitely promise to always make films about issues that matter to me. I wouldn’t be able to spend four years of my life talking about something that I don’t care about. I try to always bring topics to the table that matter, topics that I think need to be discussed and reflected on. What’s the next topic? I don’t know, but I promise you that I’ll have the same strong connection with it as I had with this one.
TSD: How has being an actor helped you direct a film like this?
DL: Being an actor has helped me in many ways to get where I am. I used everything, all of my experiences, to be the director I am. I work really closely with the actors, and I think a lot about their process. I do see things from an actor’s perspective. I enjoy working with actors so much and having the chance to be surprised by them.
TSD: How does the Hollywood environment need to change so that we can see more Latino representation in film?
DL: You know what needs to happen? On the 28th of March, everyone should go and buy a ticket to watch this film. They should go with their family and they should make sure to send the message that our community needs to be represented in film. That’s exactly the lesson that Cesar Chavez left. We cannot be expecting change to come from others; we have to generate change.
So when you buy a ticket to watch a film, you’re allowing those kinds of films to exist. You’re supporting that voice behind the film. Make sure, when there’s a chance to send a message, you become part of it. This is a film that celebrates our community, that talks about where we come from. If people go watch it, every company is going to be saying, ‘How do I reach that audience? How do I get to talk to them?’ But if no one goes to watch it, then we cannot blame the industry for not doing films about us.
TSD: Do you find that you relate to Chavez in anyway, now that you’ve done this film?
DL: I relate to Chavez because I had the great gift and opportunity to work in something that has a lot to do with who I am. I ask myself if I am where I want to be and if not, to try to change it. I also have that opportunity, that feeling that what I do matters. It’s a lovely feeling. I don’t think I’ve done enough. When I see this film I go “Damn, I’ve done nothing!”
Contact Alicia Hamar at ahamar22 “at” stanford.edu.