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Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Pan y Circo’ On Amazon Prime Video, Where Diego Luna Hosts Dinners With Great Food And Tough Conversations

Pan y Circo (translation: Bread and Circuses), produced by the company founded by actor/director Diego Luna and his friend, countryman and colleague Gael Garcia Bernal, sets up a pretty straightforward premise: Luna has a three-course gourmet dinner with six people who are outspoken on a particular issue affecting Mexico and the world in general. So while the food is being prepared and eaten by one of Mexico’s top chefs, Luna and his dinner guests have difficult and hopefully informative conversations about those topics.

PAN Y CIRCO: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?

Opening Shot: Protests by women in Mexican cities like Ecatepec, protesting the deaths of women at the hands of men who literally get away with murder.

The Gist: The episode that Amazon lists first on the show’s page is actually the last one produced: It’s about the COVID-19 pandemic, and the entire discussion was done remotely via Zoom. We decided to skip that one, though we’re curious to see how it turned out, and move on to the first episode of the show’s regular format, produced before the lockdown. In that episode, Luna and chef Alexander Suástegui host six women who are on different ends of the issue of “femicide” in Mexico.

Andrea Medina Rosas, Dayra Fyah, Dilcya Samantha García, Araceli Osorio Martínez, María Candelaria Ochoa and Marion Reimers all have different perspectives on what has fomented the patriarchy over the centuries, and why it’s taken so long for it to dissolve. They agree and clash over whether the state is responsible or people’s families are responsible, or maybe both. They all agree that violence against women, where most of the men who commit it do it with impunity, is poisonous to Mexican society.

Martínez has an especially personal connection to the issue, as her daughter was killed by a man who was never caught, even though it was at first sloppily ruled a suicide. She not only gets upset with Ochoa, head of a federal commission on violence against women, for not meeting with victims’ families (“You never asked for a meeting,” is Ochoa’s defensive reply), but Martínez also thinks that if law enforcement institutions are so sloppy and jump to conclusions on cases like her daughter’s, then the change that needs to be made will be a lot tougher, though doable.

Pan y Circo
Photo: Amazon Prime Video

Our Take: Even though the pandemic-centric episode of Pan y Circo is the most relevant episode of the show’s first season, we’d encourage viewers to watch at least two of the other episodes first, to get an idea for what the format of the show is really supposed to be like. On the surface, it looks like a dinner party catered by a fantastic chef. But the food, often made in relation to the issue at hand, is just a way for Luna to ease into the tough conversations he has on the show. We just wonder, though, if the conversations go anywhere or resolve anything.

Listen, seven people sitting at a dinner table, even if it’s edited down to the best moments and streamed on Amazon, aren’t going to solve the problems of Mexico or the world at large. Luna does try hard to show how privileged a position he’s in, and attempts to give voice to people who are on different socioeconomic levels. In the femicide discussion, for instance, he invites Dayra Fyah, a rapper and activist who lives in Ecatepec, a city that has the most incidents of violence against women in the country. And there’s a lot of discussion over the efficacy of even well-intentioned initiatives like the “gender alert” system. So the discussions are open and free-flowing.

But, like Facebook’s Red Table Talk, which only seems to exist to generate entertainment website headlines, we’re just wondering what Luna is hoping to accomplish with this series. Will it be understanding among the people he invites to his various dinner parties? A better understanding among the viewers about all sides of the particular issue (drug legalization, immigration, climate change, racism and abortion are discussed in the other five episodes)? Or just promoting the idea that discussion on a tough issue is still possible in this world?

No matter what the reason, there’s a vague sense that we’re listening in on a group of people chatting about these issues over wine, beer and food in a fashion that feels above the fray and a bit disconnected. That was likely not Luna’s intention, but that’s how it comes off.

Sex and Skin: None.

Parting Shot: Over Suástegui’s dessert tart that was literally tart, the group has a moment of silence over Mexico’s victims of femicide.

Sleeper Star: Speaking of Suástegui, her meals looked great and we were very interested in her not-sweet dessert.

Most Pilot-y Line: Although it’s all part of the same issue, it feels like the discussion couldn’t settle on whether it wanted to be about harassment against women or violence against women. They’re both serious, but it might have been better not to conflate the two, at least in this discussion.

Our Call: STREAM IT. Luna is a very curious dinner host, egging on the discussions on Pan y Circo with knowing and educated questions. We just hope that all the discussions are as passionate and animated as the one about femicide was.

Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, VanityFair.com, Playboy.com, Fast Company.com, RollingStone.com, Billboard and elsewhere.

Stream Pan y Circo On Prime Video

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