Breaking bread and discussing the issues on Amazon’s ‘Pan y Circo’

‘Pan y Circo’ – Dinner and discourse

Diego Luna

Diego Luna is an actor, writer and producer best known for his role as Mexican drug cartel leader Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo in the Netflix drama series "Narcos: Mexico." But he's also a citizen concerned about the problems facing the world and his native Mexico these days, which is why he created "Pan y Circo."

Currently streaming on Amazon in Spanish with English subtitles, the seven-episode series (whose title translates to "Bread & Circus") from Luna and fellow actor Gael Garcia Bernal's production company La Corriente del Golfo uses a sumptuous meal as the vehicle to get together people of differing points of view to converse about the issues of the day and hopefully come to a better understanding of one another.

The dinner guests are politicians, activists, Nobel Laureates, film, music or literature professionals, scientists and even an astronaut and discussions revolve around topics such as gender violence, the climate crisis, abortion, racism and identity, immigration and COVID-19. All meals are prepared by world-class chefs in varying locations around Mexico. Luna moderates the conversations.

The idea, the actor says, is to get people not only talking, but listening.

"I think everyone is shouting these days," he says. "You know, social media is a great example of that, but no one listens. And by listening ... we find out what we can do together, the way we can connect. And polarized societies are very dangerous, and that's where we're heading in the states, in Mexico, in Brazil, in you name it. So the idea of this was to do the show, as a citizen, I would like to see, I would like to participate (in). And, also, to do a show where I can get closer to cooks. ... So it was a chance to step away from fiction and talk about the real world, the one that should be worrying us today so much."

The meals have three courses, each with a meaning – basically, a past, present and future of the issue at hand. All diners are asked to give up their cellphones for the evening and no toxic voices are allowed. So for instance the climate change dinner would have no climate change deniers.

Still, tensions would flare and arguments would break out but the intimate dinner setting and the opulent spread managed to alleviate any lingering animus. The wine and Mezcal also helped.

"By the end, it was one of those lunches you have that suddenly become dinners," Luna says. "You know, that suddenly you realize you’ve been there for four hours and you still want to stay. The best part is that every time I said, 'OK, we’re going to stop shooting, and this is the end of the show. We can stay here,' everyone stayed for at least a half hour. Everyone wanted to keep going, and it was a nice experience for everyone, even those who were confronted (about) their positions."

George Dickie

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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