Why Am I Doing This?
“Why am I doing this?” is a question I don’t often ask myself. It’s one of those important introspective sort of questions that forces the kind of consideration I prefer to delay in favor of meaningless distractions and necessary chores. But a blog needs content, so here it goes …
Why am I doing this? Producing a feature documentary about Cesar E. Chavez? Since I’ve been at it for nearly three years I think it would be a good idea to ignore the distractions and chores for an hour or two to try to answer that question.
Best place to start is to list the reasons why I’m not doing it, clear those out of the way:
1. I’m not doing it because I’m particularly liberal or noble or self-sacrificing. I’m as selfish and narcissistic as the best of them.
2. I’m not doing it because I think that one documentary film can reverse hundreds of years of feudalism in American Agriculture, though I do believe it can help.
3. I’m not doing it because I’m an expert on Cesar Chavez, his history or his philosophy. I’m no expert. I still have much to learn about the man.
4. I’m not doing it to make money, that would be stupid, and I’m not stupid.
5. I’m not doing it because people mix Cesar Chavez up with Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela, though it would be nice if everyone I meet after the film is released stops mixing these two very different men up.
6. I am not doing because I am Mexican-American. I am only Mexican-American when I eat.
7. I have never worked so hard or so long on a film. But I cannot say that I was born to produce this movie, or had some sort of “calling” to tell Cesar’s story, though I do think Rick Perez does.
In 2007, Rick approached me with the idea to produce “Cesar’s Last Fast” with him. At first I thought he was talking about the president of Venezuela. He soon fixed that. He showed me Lorena Parlee’s footage. I cried, said yes, and we started making a documentary film called “Cesar’s Last Fast.”
The beginning was as easy as that.
Rick and I collaborated on several television documentaries before 2007. At one point I turned to him and said “together we make an amazing filmmaker.” I still think that is true. As filmmakers, collaborators, and friends Rick and I are a good team. Belief in each other is a powerful thing. Cesar knew this.
He sent farm workers to cities and towns across the country with $5 a week and the directive; “Go stop the supermarkets from selling grapes.” With no experience, no money, and no institutional support, the farm workers did it. Millions of Americans boycotted grapes, shut down the growers, and in 1975 the California Agriculture Labor Relations Act was signed in to law. Cesar believed that farm workers that had never left the Central Valley or held any job outside the fields, could do it. He believed, and he was right.
So, “Why am I doing this?” I am doing this because I believe in it.
I strongly passionately and wholeheartedly believe in this film. I have never seen a production blessed with so much good fortune, good people, and good will. We’ve had our ups and downs as everyone does when they are engaged in a creative process, but I have never felt so energized and inspired by my work as I do now.
Films like “Cesar’s Last Fast” do not come around very often. I’m grateful to know and work with Rick Perez and deeply honored to be part of “Cesar’s Last Fast.” With your help we are going to make a beautiful film.
Si Se Puede. — Molly