« GI give them bread and circuses, and they will never revolt. This cynical observation of the docility of the population in the face of government provocation could apply to cooked meals and television as well as the amphitheater with which Juvenal, the Roman poet to whom the sentence is attributed, was familiar. But for Diego Luna, the Mexican actor, producer, director and activist, it sparked an idea on how to look at the evils of his country.
His new show in Spanish, Pan y Circo (Bread and Circus), which debuts on Amazon Prime today, is built around a simple concept: to bring together disparate and expert voices on a variety of pressing topics and give them the speech. Or, in this case, the table.
Luna says her years in the entertainment industry, starting in the early ’90s and including everything from the indie hit Y tu Mamá Tambien in 2001 to a Star Wars blockbuster a decade and a half later, gave her the “luxury.” to have the right people return their calls. This allowed him to produce Pan y Circo, a daring and confrontational project, and, he says, “Having the ability to sit these people down and make sure someone is listening, while I listen. That is the beauty of this project for me.
Pan y Circo gives longtime activist Luna the opportunity to address several difficult topics from a Mexican perspective, including femicide – the country has one of the highest rates of murder of women in the world – as well as the prohibition of drugs, immigration, identity and racism. But Luna insists that, despite the Mexican point of view, all of the topics covered are truly universal.
“If you say that wherever you live you are not in contact with gender-based violence, if you say that wherever you are in the community in which you live there is no manifestation of racism… if you say migration is a local problem, or a latin american problem, i think you will miss it a lot. “
He says the episode on identity – made amid growing awareness of systemic racism in Mexico, the United States and elsewhere, but before the latest global Black Lives Matter protests – was particularly shocking to him. “It confronted me. I sat down and said, “Well I’m not a racist, but listening to these people I realized how much I take advantage of a racist system, how much I have benefited my whole life. life.
“For me, this is what happens when you don’t want to listen to others – you think you’re part of a solution, it’s easy to feel part of a solution, you can like a message, or retweet something and you’re part of a solution, you’re there, you do something, but you’re not.
“To be truly ready to do something, you must first allow the transformation to take place within you. What is clear is that today we have all learned to interact or live with horrific levels of violence, injustice, inequality, corruption, impunity. And we accept that it’s something that can be real, that can be, in fact, our present. How do we adjust this in our heads so that we don’t get frustrated or affected by it, we manage to continue.
He’s laughing. “And there’s Donald Trump, you know?” And it is still there.
Luna believes the dining table is a natural setting for discussing important topics and was written by some of the country’s top chefs to create menus that would stimulate conversation. “It’s interesting how food can trigger a connection because you and I can think differently, we can believe in different things, we can have different policies, but what we can definitely do is is to share a piece of bread, to share a dish. Food brings us together. “
His goal, he says on the show, is to bring people to the “center of the table,” where they can examine their own beliefs and perhaps their biases and, hopefully, learn to appreciate the points of view. view of others. “There is no room for gray areas, there is no room for nuance, it’s interesting how reluctant we are to listen. We have created a room where everyone is screaming at the same time and no one is paying attention. The idea behind the show is: how can you listen to someone who might not think like you? “
The host and his aides were wrapping up the show earlier in the year when the pandemic hit, canceling the release schedule and forcing him to return to Mexico City from London, where he worked.
His children had contracted Covid-19, he said, and while he could be near them in the Mexican capital, he was unable “to be completely there for them. It was kind of a mess and I was in a weird emotional state. I remember talking to everyone on the team and saying, “Why are we talking about broadcasting them?”
The solution, they realized, was to create an additional seventh episode focusing on the effects of the pandemic on the topics covered by the other episodes. “When the pandemic arrived, we realized that these questions were crucial and so much more relevant to these causes now… [for example,] what does it mean to “stay home” if your abuser is in this house? “
The series is a natural progression of another of his passions – documentary film. His Ambulante festival, which he founded with his longtime co-star, collaborator and friend Gael García Bernal, celebrated its 15th anniversary this year, in a deaf form, with an online version (“We reserve for this party once we can kiss, ”he says). He transformed the way audiences view documentaries in Mexico, moving them from a “boring 2 a.m. show on government channels” to a multi-faceted traveling festival that features films, as well as a collection of panels, workshops and concerts in cities. and the cities of Mexico.
“It’s amazing, it’s grown and changed, and I think the audience kind of helped shape the festival into what’s needed.”
He says audiences increasingly accept diversity in all fields – not only in what they watch, but how they watch it – and believes the proliferation of streaming services has made it easier to portray a diversity of people. voice, including Latin. and Latinx. He’s proud that his work with Netflix’s Spanish-language hit Narcos Mexico was part of the push for broader on-screen representation.
“The idea of having more outlets for the stories to release took advantage of the specificity of the stories. It’s still a challenge, but not the same as before. Shows like Narcos make this clear. If the public gets hooked, they’re willing to put in the effort. I think that’s what audiences are starting to look for, that attention to uniqueness, where you want to be able to see something unique, that exists and that connects you to something else. ”
English-speaking audiences may be more familiar with Luna’s turn as Cassian Andor, the taciturn and handyman intelligence officer of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and fans can expect that Mexican actor is reprising his role in an upcoming Disney + character-centric prequel television series.
The global health crisis has temporarily derailed production, but Luna says that while things get back on track with the series, he believes the pandemic has changed his perspective. “Filming is starting around the world, so slowly we’re going back, but there is no rush. For me, what this pandemic has brought to my attention is that [are] priorities. We have to be careful and we have to know when and how to go back.
“And the how is the most important, because if we go back to what we were, we wasted our opportunity, we wasted a major opportunity to rethink and reinvent a lot of what we thought was crucial and essential that didn’t. clearly is not. . “
Pan y Circo is now available on Amazon Prime