Published February 12, 2014
In just over a month, the new biopic about labor leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez will hit U.S. movie theaters. And much like in Chavez’s life and work, it comes with controversy.
One critic of the film is alleging the studio “fired unionized workers and outsourced part or the entire production to Mexico.”
In a Facebook post, Chamba Sanchez said he had received an email asking if he would help promote the new film and he felt conflicted.
“In light of the problems facing farm workers, I am not sure if it is a good thing that people should profit from this man’s great work,” he wrote. “I have to say that I have great respect for his work ... he belongs in the pantheon with those men who dared to challenge the status quo and changed the world for the better.”
Sanchez, who works in the Los Angeles Community College District, according to Facebook, wrote that he is looking into allegations that “people behind this movie fired unionized workers and outsourced part or the entire production to Mexico.”
“This is quite disturbing,” Sanchez wrote. “If this is the case, Cesar Chavez must be spinning in his grave.”
The allegations of the use of non-union actors first surfaced in 2012, when a letter by a woman using the pseudonym of Lisa Mendoza, was posted on Latina Lista.
In the posting, Mendoza claims she received a casting notice saying that “several roles were still available for the Chavez film and they were all ‘non-union, Arizona local hires only.”
“A film centered on the theme of unionism is hiring non-union actors to tell the story?” she wrote. “That did not make sense. I called my agent and sure enough the breakdowns said the roles re-released were all non-union and he couldn’t send me in for an audition.”
Fox News Latino reached out to Pantelion Films for comment, but did not receive a response by the time of this posting.
“Cesar Chavez” is directed by Mexican actor-director Diego Luna and starred by Michael Peña, America Ferrera, Rosario Dawson and John Malkovich.
Sanchez’s post led to several comments from others, some specifically focusing on the fact that Dolores Huerta, who co-founded United Farm Workers (UFW) with Chavez, was reportedly not consulted during the making of the film.
One comment to the post came from Martha Escutia, a former California state senator, who wrote that there is a split between Huerta and the UFW and she would be interested to know more about the alleged firings.
She said though, that if the film is good, she does not mind Luna or anyone “get rich if it’s a result of hard work.”
“And frankly, these are the type of stories that should be told by Hollywood producers, not the BS stories of gang members and films such as American Me,” Escutia wrote. “More power to Diego Luna for breaking the cycle of ‘Latino gang’ stories. So I will support his movie.”