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‘Cesar’s Last Fast’

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Through never-before-seen footage from 1988, this powerful documentary humanizes labor leader Cesar Chavez as it dramatically chronicles his selfless and life-threatening protest against the use of pesticides on farmworkers. The film reminds us why his fight for civil rights still resonates today. 2014

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Richard Ray Perez, director: When I was 4, I was attending a preschool program for low-income kids in San Fernando, California. Idealistic Chicano students from the local college would volunteer. One day I noticed [one of the college students] was plucking the grapes out of the fruit cocktail that came with our free lunch. I asked him, “Why aren’t you eating your grapes?” He held up a grape and he described the horrible conditions under which the grape pickers were forced to work. Suddenly grapes became ugly in my mind and I couldn’t eat them anymore. My classmates all looked at their grapes and they too refused to eat them. At that moment, we inadvertently became part of a national grape boycott led by Cesar Chavez. Years later, I inherited a cache of dramatic footage of a 36-day fast Chavez undertook in 1988. My childhood experience joining the grape boycott, later learning that my father had been a migrant farmworker for decades, and the power of the footage I inherited made it clear that I had to make this documentary.