When Oscar de la Hoya approached Eva Longoria Bastón to direct a documentary based on his rivalry with Julio César Chávez, she wasn’t sure she was the right person for the job.
“I’m not a boxing expert,” she recalls the boxing legend. “Maybe a boxing expert should do this.” But as she dug deeper, the actress and director realized that the story was so much more than boxing. The opportunity to explore the existing cultural divides in the Mexican American community through the lens of sports proved too good to pass up.
Eva Longoria Bastón, Oscar de la Hoya and producer Grant Best recently visited IndieWire’s Sundance Studio, hosted by Adobe, for a panel on their new documentary “La Guerra Civil,” which will premiere this week as part of the virtual reality show. Sundance Film Festival.
“It’s not about jabs and punches and stats,” the director said. “This is about this cultural divide, and exploring what it means to be Mexican enough. And I feel like we’re still running into that a little bit today, it hasn’t gone away.”
Oscar de la Hoya took on Julio César Chávez in two high-profile boxing matches in the 1990s, and their boxing rivalry divided Mexican nationals and Mexican Americans. Oscar de la Hoya is Mexican-American and soon learned that many people in his community, including his own family, felt compelled to support Chávez out of loyalty to their Mexican roots.
“Now I get it,” said the boxer. “This fight here with Chavez, who is like this living Mexican legend, who is like a god to us… And you have this kid who grew up in LA, who represented the US at the Barcelona Olympics… It was the first time I experienced a bit of friction when I was fighting with Julio César Chávez And I didn’t understand it A handful of my uncles supported Julio César Chávez when I was fighting with him And then I realized this isn’t just a fight This is a battle between our cultures.”
The question of what it means to be “Mexican enough” and whether a young man raised in America can carry a torch for the Mexican community is an extraordinarily complex one. But Longoria Bastón notes that boxing has long been used as a way to explore difficult subjects.
“The more interesting boxing documentation, like Antoine Fuqua’s ‘What’s My Name’ about Muhammad Ali… it wasn’t about boxing. It was about his civil rights trajectory, which fascinated me so much. Or if you’ve seen ‘Champs’ on HBO about Bernard Hopkins and Mike Tyson and how these guys got out of the prison system. I always think boxing has so many social aspects, and we haven’t seen our version of that in the Mexican community yet.”
While Oscar de la Hoya and Julio César Chávez both hung up their boxing gloves years ago, the cultural divisions that inspired their rivalry are still very much alive. The film crew hopes that ‘La Guerra Civil’ will help the community make progress in solving these problems.
“The documentary starts with how different Oscar and Julio are,” said Longoria Bastón. “Young and old, champion and up-and-coming talent, and American against the Mexican… and by the end of the documentary you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re so much more alike.’ And I’d like to see our community come to that conclusion in our fight, because we have much bigger fights.”
Watch the full interview above.
Presenting sponsor Adobe — with a mission to empower creativity for all — is committed to supporting, enhancing, and empowering underrepresented creators so the world can see, learn, and benefit from different perspectives. Learn more at Adobe.com Diverse Voices. The upcoming festival in 2022 will mark the fifth consecutive year that IndieWire and Adobe have joined forces for the IndieWire Studio at Sundance.