bby: John Rodriguez
Back in 2007, American-Mexican film director Patricia Riggen made a name for herself in Hollywood with her independent film entitled La Misma Luna or Under the Same Moon. The Spanish and English film centers on the relationship with a Mexican mother (Kate del Castillo) living illegal California to support her son (Adrian Alonso) who ventures from his Mexican village to the United States to escape his oppressive family and reconnect with his mother. Like her 2007 film, Riggen’s newest feature film Girl in Progress showcases a trying relationship between a Latino mother and her daughter who don’t exactly portray the expected roles of a mother and daughter.
Renowned for directing Latino-based films Riggen describes how since her 2007 independent film she “got thrown a lot of Latin scripts…but most of them I wasn’t attracted to.” That was until Riggen received the script for Girl in Progress, “This film was cleverly written, and I thought it was interesting and original within the coming-of-age-genre. I like the idea this was not first-generation Mexican immigrants, it was more of an American story, it’s more about single motherhood and the conflict between mothers and daughters.”
Eva Mendes stars in the film and plays a single mother who refuses to grow out of her party girl phase but is expected to do so due to her mature 17-year-old daughter Ansiedad, played by Cierra Ramirez. While the film portrays the conflict between a immature mother and a mature daughter, praise for the film is going to Riggen. According to movie’s screenwriter Hiram Martinez, Riggen brings a “mother’s love” to the film because she was “a mom first in identifying with the story,” but being a mother isn’t the only thing Riggen brought to the film.
Martinez also notes another credit behind Riggen’s creative eye stating that “she came to this film as a Mexican filmmaker. She said, ‘I am a Mexican woman. I have to tell the story from my point of view,” and Riggen did just that. Just like she has in her prior works, Riggen tries to utilize her heritage and upbringing in Guadalajara in order to bring forth true emotion and sense of realness in her films.
While growing up Riggen enjoyed films that would technically be considered “artsy.” Riggen enjoyed films from Iran and China, including some films by local American directors like Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese. Although Riggen developed a love for films, she became a journalist since there were no film schools where she grew up. While she did not train as a film director, Riggen ended up interviewing many filmmakers before making her to New York where she eventually received her master’s degree at Columbia in Directing.
“It was like being struck by lighting. I thought ‘Oh, my God, we can make good movies,'” Riggens says, remembering back to the first time she saw a Mexican classic entitled Amores Perros, a 2000 film directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu with Gael García Bernal as one of it stars. Riggen saw that the film and its director, along with other Mexican directors like Alfonso Cuáron and Guillermo del Toro, could direct and write heart-felt and hard-hitting Mexican cinema that could presented and well received by the world.
Riggen accredits her fellow countrymen and directors as being “huge inspirations,” that she can appreciate since “when it was my turn to arrive here [the United States] they changed Hollywood’s mind. When they did Harry Potter (directed by Alfonso Cuáron) and all different kinds of movies, you now don’t get typecast to direct a certain kind of movie. I have access to all kinds of stories.”
After garnering some fame from directing a few short films, Riggen is one of the most high-profile Latina film directors in Hollywood. This acknowledgment is truly honorable considering there are few Latinos within Hollywood earning such praise in the same position as Riggen, “I feel like a rare species. We’re so underrepresented in general–women in film, Latinas in film. I worked really hard, and there’s a lot of competition out there, but I have never experienced discrimination ever I moved here [Los Angeles]. I saw people believing in me, and started believing in myself.”
Girl in Progess starring Eva Mendes is currently out, meanwhile Riggen is currently prepping to direct an American remake of a 2005 Argentine film entitled Elsa and Fred which is a love story about two senior citizens.