EXCLUSIVE: Diego Luna On Making 'Cesar Chavez'

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You were initially a producer on the film. Did you ever think about passing the reins to somebody else or did you know from the start that you wanted to be the film’s director?

First, we arrived and we met the family and we said, 'We want to produce this' and we want to put this together. And then, as time passed I realized it was the next project I wanted to handle as a director.

Did the prospect of directing this film ever intimidate you?

I was scared. I was nervous. It was a lot of pressure. But I wasn’t doing this by myself. I have partners. We put together an amazing team. As I said, the main theme of this movie is that it’s about everyone; it’s about everyone around you. It’s not just about the people in the movement but also about the reaction of the country, the reaction of the housewives, the reaction of Middle America. A lot of the film is based on the boycott they did on grapes, and the boycott would never have happened without the millions of Americans that stopped eating grapes. So my point is that, as a director, I always had that in mind too. Even though I was leading this project, I had this amazing team that I could always rely on.

Did you ever think about the way this film would affect the entire Latino community, but especially the Mexican-American community — particularly in this day and age when there’s so much hateful rhetoric in regards to immigrants?

Yeah. We knew — I knew — that this was the right time to talk about [it] and that this was the right time to put this film out. And today things are even more complicated in the fields. Definitely there’s a debate that this country needs to go through which is why this community that has built the country, that has fed the country for so many years, is not celebrated and recognized. This film...it might bring the debate to a bigger audience.

Do you think the community will mobilize once they remember how strong they can be when they come together?

I think  that the film is just going to add to a bigger thing that is already happening. The debate is happening. The different kind of movements and organizations are pushing for this to happen. The president has many times said that this is going to happen. And I think the elections showed just how important this community is — and not just for Democrats. Everyone wants to connect with this community. And this is the time for the community to actually do something. But I believe the film is bigger than that. And, in that way, I think the film is very universal because the struggle of this community and the way they did things and the way they collapsed these industries in order to get recognition, it’s a great example of how things should happen when you want change. It’s a great example of a movement that promoted non-violence as a main tool for change, a movement about ideas, a movement about connecting with others.

Was that one of the things you really wanted to convey? Because you seemed to really stress that Chavez was quite committed to using non-violent means.

Totally! It’s a very violent time today and the amount of violence that we live around is quite scary. And definitely a movement that achieved such big things without using violence as a tool is a great example for everyone in the world today. There’s so much change needed today that I think this is a great time for the film to be seen and not just in the States but everywhere.

Was there a particular moment in the film that you feel was most powerful or was the hardest to make impactful?

To me, the most powerful scene in the movie is the story about a father and a son; the story about a father and his family that he sometimes has to leave behind to make change. And the biggest change in my life in the last year is that I became a father and somehow the film ended up being about that and that’s when the film becomes personal.

Did you get to meet and spend time with Fernando [Chavez]?

I did get to speak with him a few times. The most amazing part of this was actually showing the film to them — not just to Fernando, but showing the film to the family and finding out the relevance of the film to them.

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Priscilla Rodriguez, Senior Editor

Priscilla Rodriguez is Latina.com’s Senior Editor. She provides coverage on nearly every topic with a focus on celebrity entertainment. Before hitting the pavement at Latina, Priscilla worked for various outlets including Teen.com, InStyle and Us Weekly. You can follow her on Twitter @priscilrodrig.

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