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'Cesar Chavez' film to screen for farm workers in Delano

FRESNO -- More than 1,000 farm workers are expected in Delano on Tuesday night to watch the first feature film about Cesar Chavez.

The film, directed by Diego Luna and starring Michael Pena as Chavez, is set in the 10 years surrounding the grape boycotts that began in the Kern County farm town in the 1960s.

The film will screen outdoors at the Forty Acres, a parcel of land on Delano's outskirts that is now a National Historic Monument. It was here that Chavez's 1968 fast drew national attention to harsh working conditions in the fields.

A large screen has been erected in front of the union hall where grape growers first signed UFW contracts ending a five-year table-grape strike. Most of the audience will be workers bused in from across the Central Valley and the fields of Salinas.

Since trailers first started playing in theaters over the holidays, the upcoming film has caused a stir in this agricultural region.

Historic news clips of marches and violence put real-life Delano on the big screen. Some of the family names of growers depicted in the film are still key to the Central Valley economy. Scenes shot in Sonora, the center of Mexico's table grape industry, are mirror-images of Central Valley fields from 45 years ago.

Rosario Dawson plays UFW co-founder Dolores Huerta, who was raised in Stockton and at 83 still often appears at Central Valley rallies.

Luna, who first came to the attention of American audiences in the 2001 film "Y Tu Mama Tambien," used farm workers as extras. He has been showing the film to small audiences, many of the screenings fundraisers for the UFW, as well as a screening at the White House. At college campuses he has implored students to apply what he describes as the film's message of nonviolent calls for change to today's pushes for immigration reform and higher wages.

Luna and cast member America Ferrera will attend Tuesday night's screening, according to a news release from the Cesar Chavez Foundation. The film opens nationwide on Friday.

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Twitter: @dianamarcum

diana.marcum@latimes.com

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