Bridging The Gap: Diego Luna On The Legacy of César Chavez

Lisa Valadez | 3/14/2014, 1:37 p.m.
Diego Luna speaks about the making of the film César Chavez.

We should be thankful for Diego Luna.

It’s a weighted statement but it’s true. The director of the biopic about a Mexican-American born hero, César Chavez, deserves recognition beyond belief. Chavez, co-founder of the National Farm Workers Association and leader of the 1960’s grape boycott is a hero regardless of race, thanks to his tireless efforts of not only giving hope to many suffering the unfair conditions and low wages of migrant farm work, but raising the awareness of being positive change for Latinos everywhere.

And Luna became the man to bring his triumphant life story to life.

Part of the entertainment business from an early age, Diego Luna has been cast in roles involving theatre, television, and movies. His big breakthrough occurred when he was cast in the critically acclaimed coming of age film, Y Tu Mamá También (And Your Mother Too) Now, in what may be his most important role to date, he’s sharing the story of César Chavez, inspiring many and awakening a movement of Latino leaders to do more for their people and most importantly for the legacy of Chavez himself.

The film and life of Chavez escorted me back to my own personal journey, the daughter of a migrant farm worker. Until now, I had never taken the time to ask about my mom and her family’s life on the farms. It only took the first couple of minutes of me telling the film for her to confirm what I had seen. She, overcome with a flood of emotions returning, faintly responded back to me and as I sat down with Luna following the film, he expressed those sentiments too.

Houston Style Magazine:: Mr. Luna, thank you for this film. It is such a gift. First off, what type of research went into factually portraying the farm workers in the film? Were there personal one-on-one interviews?

Diego Luna:: Well, there were three steps. The first step was to go through all the material of the time. The movement happened not too long ago so there’s tons of film. [I] saw many documentaries and footage to see their basic needs. Second, working very closely with the union today and with someone who runs the UFW (United Farm Workers) today, Arturo Rodriguez. And the third was to go out to the fields and experience it for myself. We traveled through many communities around Delano. That’s basically where our story happens. The experience, the actual day of a farm worker, we had to see. We had to see it from every perspective basically to understand it and to be able to tell the story.


César Chavez Film Trailer

HSM:: At a recent SXSW panel, you stated that you made this film for your son. Can you elaborate? And why did you choose the story of César Chavez?

DL:: Well it's a story of our community that I am really close to but that my son actually belongs to. He was born in California and he's always going to have an American and Mexican passport. And I wanted to honor those who work hard so our community can be where it is today and those who showed us that change was possible and that change was in fact, in our hands. I also did it for my son because I believe my son needs to get inspired. There's so many needs in our community today. There's a big need of change of recognition and also also we need to unite as one, exactly. It's pretty clear the message - if we find a way to be united we will be showing the world our strength. Our strength is in our numbers and our strength is in the amount of sacrifice we are willing to do for others, you know? The amount of sacrifice we are willing to do for our neighbor because then whatever issues he's facing, he'll have the strength of everyone around him because you are not here alone, you belong to something bigger. That makes us strong you know - that makes us powerful. Today as a community, we have to learn from these people. We haven't been as organized as they were since then. And today, come on, there is urgent immigration reform that needs to happen. There is so much - the distance between those who have and those who don't is growing and growing and that needs to change. So, that's why I did it for my son because I believe that generation is the hope of our community.