Wednesday, March 19, 2008

“Under the Same Moon” Raises Political Issues Debunked in Human Dimension

This film is a crowd pleaser premiered in Sundance 2007, Toronto, under the title, “La Misma Luna.” It was greeted with standing ovation at Rome film festival as well. The story line characterizes an emotionally rich and poignant tale of a mother and son living in a world just on the opposite sides of the US-Mexico border bonded by an enduring love. Both characters have parallel stories which are interwoven into a textured tapestry of yearning and devotion that portrays a young child's persistence and courage ("find my mother before she forgets me") and a mother's sacrifices.

This nine-year-old wide-eyed Carlos aka Carlitos (Adrian Alonzo, Mask of Zorro) is one of the countless children left behind by parents who come to the U.S. seeking a way to provide for their families. His mother, (Kate Del Castillo, Bordertown) has worked illegally as a domestic in Los Angeles for four years, sending money home to her son and mother (Angelina Pelaez) to give them a chance to a better life.

When his grandmother died, leaving young Carlitos alone, the need for his mother reached to a point where he has to take his fate into his own hands. To find her, the kid heads north across the border, a journey from his rural Mexican village to L.A. Barrio. Carlitos faces seemingly insurmountable obstacles with a steely determination and unfettered optimism that earned him the grudging respect and affection of a reluctant de facto guardian and protector, a middle age migrant worker named Enrique (Eugenio Derbez, Padre Nuestro). Every time Carlitos faces life-and-death situations, director Riggen sends in a savior. These scenarios are shown when he is smuggled across the border, dealing with hopelessness after the loss of his money and more than one potential physical attack.

The unlikely pair finds its way from Tucson to East L.A., but the only clue Carlitos has to his mother's whereabouts is her description of the street corner from which she has called him each Sunday morning for the last four years. Unaware that Rosario is only hours away from returning to Mexico to be with her son, Carlitos and Enrique desperately comb the vast unfamiliar city for a place he has seen only in his imagination.

This film could have been a forum for a political debate about immigration laws, yet these issues are debunked by the story’s human dimension. A few have been mentioned, but never enough to distract from the movie's central message: what we will do for love. Finding mom is an impulse so basic that it makes talk of "illegals" sound like a dry policy debate.

In Rosario's case, it is the willingness to be away from her only son just to be able to give him a better standard of living. She shows a real strength when a simple solution to her problem presents itself.

But the script by Ligiah Villalobos, a Mexican native now living in the United States, takes that plot line in a refreshing direction. She says,
“As an adult, there have been a lot of issues in my life as a result of feeling this kind of abandonment twice from both parents," …"And so that is actually what I wanted to explore, that sometimes parents feel like they're making the best decision for their children, and it may not necessarily be the case. So whether it's in the arms of strangers that happened during World War II, or whether it's through Operation Peter Pan, which is also what happened with a lot of the children -- 14,000 children -- in Cuba, or whether it's through these mothers and fathers that because of circumstances, financial circumstances, have to come and live in this country, these kids are left behind."
For Carlitos it is the long, dangerous trek he is willing to make to be with his mother. The travels of Carlitos ring true because the character doesn't suddenly morph into a child with an adult's sensibilities. He's a kid, which Riggen underscores through the constant mistakes Carlitos makes along the way.

Movies like this that put children in jeopardy have to be handled in a delicate manner. There needs to be enough danger for the audience to be devolved through the story. But depicting too much danger the movie becomes manipulative or even exploitative; but the director was able to overcome these odds.

Patricia Riggen, 37, a Guadalajara-born and Columbia University-educated, and a first-time director shows the skill of a veteran in how she handles such a delicate situation in this new Spanish-language feature film "Under the Same Moon." She has the talent for putting emotion on film; she knows how to get those tears flowing, both on screen and in the theater.

In a recent interview, Ms. Riggens said,
"I want to remind people that it's about the human condition and the separation of loved ones … All of the conversations and controversy are always focused on the economic or political side of immigration and not on the human family side of it … That's what I wanted to look at. I didn't want to do a political film. I just wanted to show the human side of this story that we hear every day … I felt like there were two cities, I didn't quite know how to feel about it, being Mexican myself. Every single service is provided by immigrant hands. It was very different, and it made me conscious of the situation. I started talking to people about their situations, how they crossed, why they were there, where were their families. I got involved with their stories … I just want to shed a little light on the people that are around all the time – your gardener, your cleaning lady, the taxi driver, your waiter," she says. "They all have stories, they all have loved ones, and they all have their struggles."
It would be easy to dismiss "Under the Same Moon" as portraying only interest of those who understand or care about immigration issues. But the heart of the film is a story of how love can make people move mountains--that is a universal theme.

Director: Patricia Rigen; Writer, Ligiah Villalobos; Producers: Patricia Riggen and Gerardo Barrera; Executive producers: Norman Dreyfuss, Ram Bergman and Ligiah Villalobos; Music: Carlo Siliotto; Other Cast: Maya Zapata, Carmen Salinas, Maria Rojo and Marlo Almada with America Ferrera and features a cameo appearance by the legendary band Los Tigres Del Norte who also contribute to the film soundtrack.

MPAA rating: PG-13 for some mature thematic elements.
Running time: 1 hour, 49 minutes. In limited release.

These are what the actors say with some clips

Trailer - "Under The Same Moon"

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