|A scene from Cesar's Last Fast. Photo Credit: Robin Becker.|
Starving for justice
By John Esther
For the second time in three weeks, a film about the life and times of the American human rights activist, Cesar Chavez, will receive a theatrical release. The first one was director Diego Luna’s Cesar Chavez, a hitherto underappreciated film – at least at the box office. Now we have Cesar’s Last Fast.
Inspired by both his Catholic upbringing and the teachings of Indian human rights activist, Mahatma Gandhi, Chavez conducted several fasts throughout his life.
Hardly a diet scheme, Chavez’s fasting was a response to the injustices farm workers, primarily in Central Valley California, endured. Already subject to unfair labor practices, unlawful imprisonment and, in a few cases, murder, new farming procedures implemented in the 1980s were subjecting farmworkers to carcinogenic pesticides. These pesticides affected children most of all.
In response, the 61-year-old Chavez adopted a water-only fast. The fasting protest attracted media attention, especially after it past the 30-day mark and Chavez was reaching the point of no return. By the way, his return was quite an event.
Unlike Luna’s Cesar Chavez, director Richard Ray Perez (Unprecedented) takes an irreproachable attitude toward his subject. Perez was able to gain access to Chavez’s family, his coworkers and some precious archival footage and amateur video from Chavez’s press secretary, Lorena Parlee (who died in 2006 from breast cancer). Was it cause and effect?
Picked up at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Cesar Chavez is an inspiring testimony to one of this nation’s heroes.