Director aims for ‘love we’re rooting for’

“Under the Same Moon,” a film about a 9-year-old Mexican boy who faces grave danger crossing the border into the United States in an attempt to reunite with his mother, is a touching family drama and an exciting thriller at the same time.

Yet director Patricia Riggen, who was born and raised in Guadalajara and studied film at Columbia University in New York, describes her first feature film in a different way.

“I was making a love story,” she says during a recent visit to San Francisco to promote the movie, which opens Wednesday. “The two lovers are separated. The mom and child are never in the same scene. I had to work on how to convey their love and keep it alive. It’s the love we’re rooting for.”

Audiences who already have seen the movie seem to be doing just that.

“Responses have been awesome,” says Riggen, who mentions that Fox Searchlight Pictures (which also produced “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Juno”) called it their best-tested film ever.

When it screened at Sundance in 2007, the audience gave it a five-minute standing ovation.

Anglos and different Latino communities all love the movie, Riggen says, expressing a bit of surprise at the breadth of good will toward her “small, independent, low-budget Spanish-language film.”

The most painful thing about making the movie was shooting it in five weeks. “I had to solve scenes in one take,” says Riggin. “It was run, run, run like hell,” she says, “I’ve been ‘Run, Lola, Run.’”

That pace is reflected in the movie, which, at times, plays more like a Hollywood offering than an art-house film. In future, larger projects, Riggen hopes to continue to emulate other Mexican directors who are making well-crafted films with an original voice.

That’s also how she would describe “Under the Same Moon,” which draws quite a bit of drama from its depiction of problems of illegal immigration. Yet Riggen had no intention of making an “issue” film.

“They’re usually depressing,” she says. “I didn’t want to make a depressing movie. I am not a politician; I’m showing what I know of immigration.”

She also wanted to shed light on and present a different perspective about a situation experienced by some 4 million women in the U.S., she says — women who make sacrifices, and are separated from their families at home in order to provide them better lives.

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