The heartbreak of illegal immigration is vividly displayed in this poignant story of nine year old Carlos (Adrian Alonso) a boy living in Mexico with his grandmother while his mother (Kate del Castillo) works as an illegal domestic in Los Angeles trying to make enough money to send home so the son she has been separated from can live a good life--even if it means being without her. When the grandmother suddenly dies Carlos decides to cross the border and look for mom. As his journey continues he encounters a woman (America Ferrera) and her brother (Jesse Garcia) who make tuition money taking babies into the U.S. In this instance she decides to help smuggle Carlos across by hiding him in her van. Once he lands in Tuscon he meets a sympathetic middle- aged migrant worker named Enrique (Eugenio Derbez) who accompanies him to East L.A. Once there they try to locate his mother--their only clue being a vague description of the area around a pay phone she used in her weekly calls home to Carlos. The film which is shot mostly in Spanish with some English language scenes as well offers great big screen opportunities to some of Mexico’s biggest television stars including telenovela favorite Kate del Castillo. She delivers a moving performance as a mother living separated by borders with her only son but living “under the same moon.” The film really belongs however to young Alonso--a natural in front of the cameras who impressed American audiences as Catherine Zeta-Jones and Antonio Banderas’ son in The Legend of Zorro but breaks out here as the determined Carlos. Both create a touching mother-son relationship even though they are never in any scenes together. Also playing against type is superstar Derbez unquestionably one of Latin America’s most popular actors who develops a winning chemistry with Alonso making every moment of their screen time count. Ugly Betty’s Ferrera also turns up for some effective moments including a heart-stopping sequence in which she is questioned by border guards while the van carrying the hidden Carlos is searched. Although she has made some award winning shorts Under the Same Moon represents the first feature length film for Mexican-born Patricia Riggen. She succeeds on all levels emphasizing the characters in the story over the potentially political hot button topic of immigration which her film so eloquently humanizes. Working with screenwriter Ligiah Villalobos the two women give urgency to the tragic separation of mother and son caught between two disparate cultures. Given the time restraints and low budget Riggen’s command of the camera is impressive particularly in the inventive and almost spiritual ways she manages to bring mother and son together on screen even though they never share a shot. Use of music is also hugely effective with Carlos Silotto’s melodic score recalling a similar film about a young dreamer Cinema Paradiso. Ultimately though Under the Same Moon lives or dies with the actors and Riggen’ spot-on casting decisions--particularly in the case of Alonso--really lift it to new levels. Most of the actors have extensive TV followings and Riggen knew by casting them she would risk the wrath of Mexican film critics who uniformly look down on television. Doesn’t matter. Under the Same Moon has universal appeal and should find approving audiences around the world.
Set during the Spanish Civil War of the 1940s—a favorite area of exploration for writer-director Guillermo del Toro—the story follows dreamy 11-year-old Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) as she’s uprooted and relocated to a remote military outpost when her sickly mother (Ariadna Gil) marries the wantonly cruel camp commander Captain Vidal (Sergei Lopez). With the compassionate but secretive housekeeper Mercedes (Maribel Verdu) as the closest thing to a friend she has in the oppressive environment Ofelia escapes into a richly textured fantasy world. She follows a dragonfly she believes is a fairy into a landscaped but neglected garden maze she recasts as the lair of the goatish godling Pan (Doug Jones). He tells her she’s the last heir to a magical otherworldly kingdom and charges her with several tasks to help her reclaim her birthright. As her personal world grows more and more grim—the impending birth of her half-brother threatens her mother’s health her step-father grows colder and colder in his bid to crush the resistance and Mercedes’ hidden agenda places her in jeopardy as well—Ofelia soon finds herself tangling with hideous monsters both imagined and all too real often having difficulty distinguishing which is the more dangerous. The astonishingly real performance of the amazing young Spanish actress Baquero as Ofelia anchors the film firmly in both its real world and fantasy environments as only the convincing imagination of a child could. Lopez is an equally compelling discovery as the callous Vidal pitiless vicious and malevolent while still remaining believably human throughout. He’s unblinking in his depiction of a thoroughly vile and cruel man but avoids any aspect of cartoonish evil. And Verdu (Y Tu Mama Tambien) as Mercedes is a wonder as well with her remarkably expressive face unlimited by the film’s Spanish language barriers. Kudos too to Doug Jones a whisper-thin actor who specializes in “creature” roles (he’s played Abe Sapien in del Toro’s Hellboy and will be the Silver Surfer in the Fantastic Four sequel) who somehow magically delivers fully-formed performances as both the faun Pan and the freakish Pale Man through layers and layers of latex. Pan's Labyrinth is unquestionably Guillermo del Toro’s finest film work to date as pure an artistic vision as is likely to be committed to celluloid. He wisely worked outside the Hollywood system in his native Spain to bring his dark tale to life. The story exists in that shadowy netherworld between childhood and adulthood innocence and awareness of the world’s more sinister nature and its characters and themes are explored in ways that no mainstream film would ever allow. On the surface the trappings are Tim Burton-esque but the dark corners Pan's Labyrinth peers into are grim and gloomy indeed; del Toro is never afraid to delve into the murkiest of directions that to audiences used to more conventional movies are heart-wrenching even gut-churning but ultimately emotionally honest and in unexpected ways as immensely satisfying as they are haunting. The film is the announcement of the complete arrival of a major filmmaker and we can only hope that the qualities del Toro brings to this work do not get lost in the maze of Hollywood for future films.
Colombian newcomer Juanes received six Latin Grammy Awards nominations on Tuesday, the most for any artist, including record of the year, album of the year, song of the year, for "Fijate Bien," and best new artist.
Spanish artist Alejandro Sanz earned the second-most nominations, five in total, including record of the year, album of the year, song of the year, for "El Alma Al Aire," and best male pop vocal album.
Two of the most popular Mexican female acts also were nominated. Thalia and Paulina Rubio, who both performed with the group Timbiriche during their teens, each received nominations for best female pop vocal album.
Among the young stars who has successfully crossed over to the Spanish market is pop sensation Christina Aguilera. She received two nominations: best record of the year and best female pop vocal album for Pero Me Acuerdo De Ti (But I Remember You).
A group of famous Latin American singers and musicians, including Thalia, Jon Secada and Emilio Esfetan, took the stage at the American Airlines Arena in Miami to read the list of nominees for the second annual Latin Grammy Awards. The awards will be held at the arena on Tuesday, Sept. 11.
All the artists present at the nomination announcement carried a sense of pride to be able to carry their music across the world.
"There is a lot of diversity in the music, different angles and different flavors," said producer Emilio Estefan, who is married of singer Gloria Estefan. " It's a dream for me to showcase the music here. That is always something that I dreamt about when I was younger, and to have that finally happen is a dream come true."
"Its almost like a dream to be a part of the music," singer Paulina Rubio said. "The Grammys are one of the most important awards in music and I am glad to be a part of it. I owe it all to my fans."
Latin artists are beginning to confirm that their music is cross-cultural, Colombian singer Shalim said.
"Music is the universal language, and the fact that we are Latin and are to take our music across is very satisfying," Shalim said.
This year's nominations "truly reflect both international scope of Latin music and the diversity of the artists who make it," said Michael Greene, president and CEO of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and the Latin Recording Academy.
"We are celebrating span the globe and the multi-faceted genres of what we now know as Latin music," he added.
"Miami is a direct connection with the Latin music industry," said Alex Penelas, Miami-Dade Mayor, during a pre-recorded televised speech. "We have some of own very own Latin American artists here, such as Jon Secada, Gloria Estefan, and Celia Cruz...I love Celia Cruz."
Penelas was unable to attend the event because he is currently in South Africa promoting cultural events for the city of Miami.
" We have to celebrate Miami and Miami has to celebrate its music," he said
The aim of the Latin Grammy Awards is to recognize excellence and create a greater public awareness of the cultural diversity and contributions of recording artists.
But it hasn't been easy for Miami to be the host of the Latin Grammy Awards.
Last year, Miami-Dade's civic leaders rejected that the show was hosted in the stage, citing an ordinance that bars the country from those doing business with Cuba. The show was held in Los Angeles. The ordinance was later dropped, allowing Penelas and City of Miami Mayor Joe Carollo to pursue hosting the awards.
Jorge Mas Santos, president of the Cuban American National Foundation said how important it was to bring the show to Miami.
"Make no mistake about it: This is a community that is a center of ideas of freedom of expression and cultural exchange," Mas Santos said. "I am proud to be a part of this endeavor."
Greene took the opportunity to talk about the 2001 Person of the Year Award, which will be given to Julio Iglesias on Sept. 10.
"Julio [Iglesias] has always opened the doors to his house and offered help when we built the South Florida Chapter of the Latin Recording Academy," Greene said.
These awards show will also a silent auction with proceeds benefiting the Latin Academy's outreach and education programs.
The academy is expanding its chapters to Latin American countries across the world, such as Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, and Republica Dominicana to help raise music education in schools.
"We're probably concentrating this year a little more on discovery of talent," Greene said. "We'll still have the big artists ... but we're committed to finding new artists that can be successful."
A complete list of the 39 nominations can be seen on the Grammy Web site, http://www.grammy.com
The second Latin Grammy Awards will be broadcast live from Miami by CBS on Tuesday, Sept 11, from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. EDT.