By Moonah Ellison and Sophie Marie
Photography by Catie Laffoon
Born to Mexican actress, Maricruz Nájera, and theatre director, Alejandro Bichir, Demian Bichir grew up in the theatre with his two brothers, which is what brings him to us today –he has returned to the stage to act alongside his siblings to star in a play that’s close to his heart.
He confesses, “I’ve been a lucky guy all my life.” After a phone call with the Oscar nominated actor, Moves is inclined to agree.
The Police: The Last Prisoner, by Polish playwright Sławomir Mrożek, is the story of a fictitious country with only one prisoner—the last one. “It’s a farce, and very critical of [a] totalitarian government who oppress their own people, but it’s a really funny comedy,” Demian quickly says, trying to lighten the heaviness of the content, smiling, “It is through humor that we will find the best ways to criticize whatever is wrong. That’s the best way to pass an idea from brain to brain.”
Audiences can only see the performance in Los Angeles or Mexico City, as the play is in Spanish. When asked if there would be a video recording or possibility of seeing it pop up on the internet, Demian answered graciously, “No, that’s one of the beautiful things about theatre” and defended its magical isolation, a quality that sets it apart from any other medium of entertainment. “There’s no record. Every show is a different; even if it’s the same play, [the performance] is only between the audience that night, and us.”
The Mexico City Native does not shy away from topics that might make others uncomfortable. Instead he embraces the controversy and seeks out ventures that blur the line between entertainment and cultural commentary. “I’m always in favor of those types of projects; where you can actually make statement and be critical about certain issues, it’s pretty much how people know me,” he says with pride— and in looking back at his career, it’s true.
immigrants on both sides of the border. An adaptation of the Scandinavian series, Bron, Demian played a state policeman from Chihuahua, searching for a serial killer who hunts along the Mexican-American border. In the 2011 film, A Better Life, Demian played an immigrant father to a son growing up in East L.A. Surrounded by the temptation of gangs or the threat of deportation, his character struggles to provide his son with the opportunities he never had growing up in Mexico. Directed by Chris Weitz, Demian’s performance in the film earned him an Oscar nomination. To celebrate this momentous occasion (he’s only the second Mexican actor to be nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role, the first was Anthony Quinn), he bought each of his fellow nominees a bottle of tequila as a nod of admiration and good luck.
Chris Weitz called again Demian last year and invited him to film Good Kids, and, Demian admonishes, “When Chris Weiss calls me, I will be there. I will do whatever he wants,” with such sincere heartfelt emotion, we felt the bond of director and actor across the 3000 miles of radio waves. In addition to Lowriders, Demian is set to star in Lowriders, a cultural depiction of the new age low ride culture in Latino communities in the American Southwest (We didn’t know it existed!). And finally, he earned a coveted role in the new Tarantino movie, The Hateful Eight, set to release in early January of next year.
With so many endeavors on the horizon, Demian explains how he ultimately decides to commit to a film. “I do what I do as an artist. The choices I make, I am the only one responsible for them. I think that when you find a project that is socially powerful [because] of its message and the situations and the characters— that’s a gift.”
Immigration is once again a hot button in world. The Syrian refugee crisis threatens the safety of European borders—but more importantly, the survival of global citizens seeking asylum from a war torn country. Shortly after Germany welcomed thousands of Syrian migrants fleeing ISIS with a red carpet and open arms, they closed its border because the flood of refugees proved to be too great a strain on the country’s limited resources. Is the United States so different?
The Mexican government is transparent—not in terms of their democracy, but in their corruption. Drug cartels run rampant throughout the country and are often in the pockets of politicians and law enforcement, making it difficult for any real reform to take place without fatal repercussions. Consequently, thousands of immigrants attempt to cross the border into the United States to create a safer life for their families –even if they come into America alone and send money back home, it’s more income than they’re likely to make in Mexico.
The immigrant population in the American work force is overwhelming – especially in the agricultural and hospitality industries. Should a massive deportation take place, as some republican presidential candidates are threatening to invoke in their platforms, these industries would see a huge hit to production which would cause an even greater strain on the American economy. Demian continues on to state another inconvenient truth, “Sometimes people don’t have the time, nor the curiosity to jump into the actual facts or information—[only] to find out that these types of politicians lie all the time.”
Whether liberal or moderately conservative, many Americans who do keep up with the issues believe that Donald Trump is the biggest threat to immigrants seeking asylum or respite in the United States—but not Demian. He sees things a little differently. “Everyone knows that this huge community of human beings makes this country’s economy stronger. No one can deny that.”
He knows a political scapegoat when he sees one. “I don’t think Trump is dangerous for the immigrant. I think he’s dangerous for many different sectors of society, not only in the United States but in the world.”Unafraid for his fellow Mexicans, Demian acknowledges that harsh immigration reform is just a red herring, an attempt to throw American citizens off the scent of the impending social reform, apparent in the resurged Women’s Rights’ movement of the Not There campaign by the Clinton Foundation as well as the Black Lives Matter movement, seeking justice for African-Americans.
Though the political landscape is riddled with a racist agenda, Demian doesn’t believe that Hollywood reflects this social issue. “I think the African-American society and culture, is well represented by beautiful, wonderful actors, and we Mexicans have a lot of talent everywhere – great directors, photographers, and actors.” But even more important than representation in the entertainment industry is the individual discovery that success is not a competition, it’s a journey. It took Demian time to realize that, “We have to write our own stories and then show them to the world.”
And indeed he has.
Refugio is the story of a kid who grows up in a Mexican circus and how he becomes a man in his search for true love. The journey takes him all the way to the United States where his life is inherently changed by his father, without ever knowing him. It’s a film about the possibility of love, redemption, and faith. He knows the power of drama, “We represent humankind throughout history. We’re healers.”
Similar to his acting career, behind the camera, Demian sees cinematic integrity the same way.
“We actors, all we want to do is be involved in a smart project with smart stories and be able to work with the best directors and the best actors.” Demian sought out fellow Latin talent to take on this intense film that he wrote, directed, and even performs in -including Eva Longloria and Jorge Perugorría. Demian hopes his directorial debut makes the cut for Cannes Film Festival later this year.
We’ll keep our fingers crossed too!
But despite his film career and continued success, Demian is humble. He playfully jokes, “I’m a very simple man—I love my piano and I love my guitar.”