Cesar Chavez’s life and legacy take the forefront to highlight the inequities in farm workers rights that persist today.
In 1962, Mexican-American civil rights activist and former farm worker Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta co-founded the labor union which would became the powerhouse United Farm Workers within a few years. The group’s organization of a grape pickers’ strike and grape boycott generated national attention and led to reforms for the conditions and wages of farm workers, and made Chavez an enduring symbol for labor. Still, despite the victories won, today’s farm workers still barely subsist. Director Richard Ray Perez hopes to use Chavez’s story to inspire re-engagement with the issue of farm workers’ rights. At the core of the film is never-before-seen footage of Chavez’s 1988 “Fast for Life” which he undertook to protest the use of harmful pesticides. Building off of this act of sacrifice – one of many Chavez underwent before his death in 1993 – the film promises to delve into the fullness of the noted organizer’s life and work to provide not only a portrait of the man, but a blueprint to help enact change today.
Perez has received support from the Sundance Documentary and Creative Producing Programs, and is currently nearing the end of a Kickstarter campaign for final production financing. To date, he has raised two-thirds of his $21,000 goal. With just under two weeks left, there’s still time to learn more about the project and to consider making a donation. In addition, the film’s website provides more information.
Perez’s Kickstarter pitch video provides a simple and touching explanation for the director’s investment in this project – as a pre-schooler, he very easily understood why he should stop eating grapes when an older student explained his own reasons for not eating them due to the reprehensible working conditions faced by grape pickers. That immediate sense of right and wrong was at the core of Chavez’s social justice work, and people should be reminded about what and who helps to bring the food we eat to our plates. With the country struggling during the recession, and labor unions often under fire, CESAR’S LAST FAST should help bring back a sense of the power of organizing, and how it can have an impact on all of us.