UNDER THE SAME MOON
The Making Of Under The Same Moon
A sensitive examination of the emotional cost of illegal immigration, UNDER THE SAME MOON (LA MISMA LUNA) is also a bittersweet love story of a mother and son whose connection is sustained over too many years and too many miles of separation. Director Patricia Riggen is delighted by the way the film has been received at early screenings, including its Sundance premiere. "It is a small movie, without pretensions, and full of heart. The most gratifying thing for me is to see the public reaction. I love to see them laugh, see them cry. It's not only that they were entertained but that hopefully the meaning of the work will stay with them."
For Riggen, the essence of the film is the reality of the Mexican migrant. At a time when an estimated 4 million Latino women have left at least one child behind as they work in the US, she sees only one explanation. "The only reason they do it is love. Love for parents, children, family, brothers and sisters, to be able to pay school fees. This for me is something very beautiful. The Mexican migrant is very generous, heroic. They are the first audience targeted by the movie, their wants, what moves them, their dreams, their fears. All their sentiments, all their emotions, all their diversions, because this is about them and this is for them."
Riggen, whose previous credits include the prize-winning documentary FAMILY PORTRAIT, first read the script for UNDER THE SAME MOON (LA MISMA LUNA) after a mutual friend introduced her to the film's writer, Ligiah Villalobos. The script possessed a passion and universality that immediately intrigued the director. "The love story between mother and child lends itself to big emotions, which are something cinema is very good at conveying," she says. "Even though this movie is very Mexican, I believe that people of any nationality will identify with the theme. The relationship between mother and son has no nationality."
When Villalobos began writing the script more than five years ago, immigration had not yet become the burning, front-page national issue it is today. The writer was more interested in exploring the way everyday people deal with an emotionally wrenching situation than making a political statement. "This is a story of a young boy who was abandoned by his parents for the purpose of giving him a better future," she explains. "You don't need to be a Mexican or an illegal immigrant to be able to relate to this film."
The title, which translates literally to "the same moon," has a double meaning in this movie, according to Riggen. "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. 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 US; that whenever he felt lonely, he should just look at the moon and know that she would be looking at it too."
Villalobos and Riggen spent a year working together on the script, revising, restructuring and polishing it, in a process complicated by geography: Villalobos spends most of her time in New York City, while Riggen lived in Los Angeles, requiring much of the collaboration be done by telephone. It was a labor of love for Villalobos, a successful television writer and producer who worked on the script at night after putting in 12-hour days at her network job.
For her the key to the story was to approach it from the perspective of the child. "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," she says. "I would ask, does he have to be offered the best life money can buy? Or is it better that the family stay together despite monetary problems?
"Carlitos makes a decision using his heart," observes t
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