March 21, 2008

Film puts face on immigration debate

Under the Same Moon opened this week in San Diego

By Pablo Jaime Sáinz

Under the Same Moon / La misma luna is going to be one of those films that will make anti-immigrant group members, like the Minutemensos, go nuts.

The film, which opened this week in San Diego, is pro-immigrant, pro-Mexican, and pro-diversity.

The premise: “Illegal immigrants risk everything when they cross the border. They leave their loved ones and even put their lives at risk. And they do it just for one reason: the love they have for their families,” states Mexican, Los Angeles-based director Pat-ricia Riggen.

Under the Same Moon / La misma luna tells the touching story of nine year-old Carlitos (Adrian Alonso) and his mother Rosario (Kate del Castillo) who works two jobs in Los Angeles to provide a better life for her son, while his grandmother cares for him back home in Mexico.

When his grandmother dies, Carlitos starts the journey north alone to California to meet his mother.

As mother and son struggle to attempt to reunite, each finds help from unexpected friends and with undying devotion to one another, holds out hope that they can be together again.

“The love story between mother and child lends itself to big emotions, which is something cinema is very good at conveying,” Director Patricia Riggen said. “Even though this movie is very Mexican, I believe that people of any nationality will identify with them. The relationship between mother and son has no nationality.”

Mexican-American writer Ligiah Villalobos said that the story she has written is universal.

“This is a story of a young boy who was abandoned by his parents for the purpose of giving him a better future,” Villalobos said. “You don’t need to be a Mexican or an illegal immigrant to be able to relate to this film.”

She said that Under the Same Moon / La misma luna looks at the immigration issue from the perspective of a child, something that’s many times forgotten when the debate gets going.

“I wanted to try to look deep down inside a kid’s heart at what he really feels when someone close to him leaves him behind to go to another country to provide a better life for him,” Villalobos said. “I would ask, does he have to be offered the best life money can buy? Or is it better that the family stays together despite monetary problems?”

The film features a stellar cast that includes Kate del Castillo (Trade), Adrian Alonso (The Mask of Zorro), Carmen Salinas, Maria Rojo, Mario Almada, America Ferrera (Ugly Betty), and comedian superstar Eugenio Derbez.

“The way that Patricia tells the story, you can find a very funny film, a very touching film, a very political or educational film, but the bottom line is that this movie is a real portrayal of how Mexicans live when they cross the border,” said actor Eugenio Derbez, perhaps Mexico’s most popular comedian at this time. “Of how much people leave in their home countries when they come here, just to earn money. They lose everything; family love, everything, just because they need money.”

Music is a major part of the film, and Norteño legends Los Tigres del Norte make a special appearance in Under the Same Moon / La misma luna.

“Los Tigres loved the script. I sent them a summary of what I thought was the essence of the movie and the characters and they composed this song called Por amor, which speaks of the obstacles, of risking life and everything, for love. The group has always spoken for immigrants, and our little story of a boy crossing the border to see his mom captured their attention,” Riggen said.

The title of the film has a double meaning for the director.

“One is the universal moon that we all see, no matter where we are in the world; no matter which side of the border we’re on,” Riggen said. “With the debate on immigration taking place now, it is good to remember that we are all under the same moon. The other is something Carlitos’ mom told him before she left to go to the U.S.; that whenever he felt lonely, he should just look at the moon and know that she would be looking at it too.”

Under the Same Moon / La misma luna is in Spanish, with English subtitles.

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