What did they say about it?
They were very pleased. They said that they forgot they were watching a movie. They were revisiting times of their lives, and they said it was just like that, so that was something big. But again, there were a lot of concessions we had to make in order to make a film. So I think this is a good chance for the audience to get a glimpse of what happened then, and go and do their own research.
Was it challenging to figure out where to start and end the film?
Yeah, definitely. I decided not to go from when he was born to when he died because we just talked about ten years of his life and it was already a lot to hope to tell in two hours. It would have been impossible to tell it from beginning to end. And I also think that makes the film powerful because it makes it more real, I think.
What were some of the qualities of Cesar Chavez’s demeanor or persona that you felt were important to convey?
I love how little he wanted to be in the spotlight. I love that people would tell me in interviews and in the research I did that Cesar could be in a room and you wouldn’t know who Cesar was because he always wanted to blend as part of something bigger. Nobody ever did a film about him when he was alive because he always said, “No, no, it’s not about me.” Every time he received an award or something, he would ask for the award to be in the name of the union, of everyone, and I kind of love that.
Do you feel like there are any burgeoning leaders within the Latino community?
Yeah. I think they’re being born. Again, this election was a great sign. This is a time when this community can have a lot of strength and change the perception in this country about the community. And yeah, I think there are third and fourth generations that are changing. Well, they are American and that’s what I love about Cesar Chavez too. We’re telling a story about an American who had to live with prejudice that this country has for the country in the South.
Is that part of the reason why you decided to make the film in English?
I wanted a film that would have been real and they all told me that Cesar would speak in Spanish with his parents, but with his family it would be in English. He grew up in a place where, in school, they wouldn’t allow you to speak in Spanish. And he was born in the United States, not in Mexico, so we are telling the story of an American. I believe there is a lot of prejudice around this community in the United States but also in Mexico, where I come from, you know? I can’t wait to also show this film in Mexico because not many know about Cesar Chavez and the struggles of this community in the 60's, so it’s going to be very interesting to see the reaction there.
Did you get to spend some time in the vineyards and the farms with some of the workers today?
Definitely. That’s why I tell you that today the situation is even more complicated.
How is it more complicated?
Since 9/11, security has become such a priority, and that fear works against a possible and necessary and immediate change in the way that I basically think this community has accepted that there are different kinds of citizens. There’s classism when it comes to the citizens of this country and that’s just ridiculous. It makes no sense. This country has decided to, how do you say, convivir.
Exactly. They’ve decided to convivir with this community, but at the same time they’re not willing to do anything because they know people have chosen for many years to ignore this community and I think that now, it has become impossible to ignore it, and that’s why change is going to happen.
Cesar Chavez hits theaters this Friday, March 28! Are you planning to go see it?