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Field of Dreams

In his English-language directorial debut, Diego Luna honors a revolutionary Californian.
 

Luna’s Hots
Mariscos Chente, my kids waking me up, House of Cards, a good nap during a traffic jam, cooking for friends

Luna’s Nots
Fake Mexican food, my kids waking me up at midnight, gossip TV shows, driving in a traffic jam, cooking for myself

Thanksgiving, Christmas and Memorial Day—all holiday weekends that the film industry historically banks on. But director Diego Luna has opted for a lesser-known occasion to accompany his English-language directorial debut: Cesar Chavez Day. Observed in just a handful of states, the holiday honors its eponymous hero who supported protests for higher farm wages and led the five-year Delano Grape Strike in the 1960s, right here in California. Eighty-seven years after Chavez’s birth, his story is finally hitting the screen. “It’s about bringing attention to the past and present community,” says Luna. Though the holiday is officially observed on March 31, the film debuted the Friday before, on March 28. “That date is the best chance for us to reach the audience who cares about his story,” he says. And although roads and buildings bear his name, Cesar Chavez will be the first film to focus on the Latino icon. “I was shocked by... how little I knew about Cesar... [and] that no one had celebrated this man’s achievements through cinema before,” adds Luna. It wasn’t just the part of Chavez—which went to Michael Peña—that Luna had to cast. The role of Chavez’s wife, Helen, went to Rosario Dawson, and the part of Dolores Huerta, who co-founded the National Farm Worker’s Association with Chavez, went to America Ferrera. Aside from articles and archived film, Luna consulted Chavez’s family and close friends, who were helpful resources in documenting his life and his legacy. “Did you know he loved jazz music?” Luna asks. “And that in his office he had a collection of cassettes including [those of] Miles Davis and John Coltrane? He was a vegetarian, did yoga and read Gandhi. He wasn’t what most people imagine, and there are so many layers that I wanted to communicate.” So, was Luna able to peel back those layers in just two short hours? “We concentrated on... 1962 through 1972, and trying to show those 10 years of his life in just a film’s worth of time is almost unfair. But I needed to talk about his strength and make sure younger generations know who he was.” Thanks to Luna, now they will.