We are only a few weeks past this year’s Oscar ceremonies, which were surrounded by discussions about the lack of diversity in Hollywood as evidenced by an all-white list of nominees throughout the acting categories. And while Chris Rock’s monologue and jokes throughout the night focused only on the failure to nominate any black nominees, there were also no latino or asian nominees. Along with the continued struggle for racial minorities in the movie industry, the inequalities for women also continue.
With that type of climate in Hollywood, it is positive to see those norms challenged by Miracles from Heaven. On the diversity front, it has a lot of pluses. Not only is it directed by a Patricia Riggen, a Latina, but it also gives an uplifting role to Queen Latifah (playing a character based on a white woman in the real-life story) and a strong, positive role to Eugenio Derbez, playing the world-renowned doctor and Harvard professor Dr. Samuel Nurko.
At the Miracles from Heaven press junket in Los Angeles last month, I had the opportunity to pose the following question during an interview with Patricia Riggen and Eugenio Derbez.
Me: With Dr. Nurko both in real life and in the movie being such a powerful, important character, is that impactful for you in any way portraying a strong Latino role that is positive?
Eugenio Derbez: Absolutely. It’s very, very important for our community at least. It is going to be huge. Every time you go to watch a movie and there is a Latino it is always a drug lord, a narco, or probably the cook in the kitchen – whatever. All stereotypes. In portraying a Harvard eminent, probably #1 doctor in that type of disease, it is proud for the entire Latino community – not just for the Mexicans, but for the entire hispanic community. I feel blessed that I had the opportunity of portraying this amazing human being.
Patricia Riggen: That is a really good point you made and you noticed. We notice over here on this side how important it is to bring these kinds of roles to the screen. They are very rare if there are any. I can’t think of one. So, for us this is very important to start brining positive characters because there are 40 million Hispanics in this country and they aren’t all drug dealers and rapists. There are a lot of people who have made a lot of contributions and work very hard daily. I love the fact that we can bring one of them to the screen. It is important.
Press Question: There is also something to be said with you being a female director. There are so few powerful female directors that tell really great stories, so there has to be something really sweet about you telling a story that at its core is really important about a mom and her daughter, which I can’t remember the last time I have seen such a powerful mother and daughter.
Patricia Riggen: Well, thank you. There is a very low percentage of female directors in this country, therefore in the world because this is like the most advanced and progressive society in filmmaking and there is only like 7-8% female directors. It is a tough battle to fight every day. I feel very fortunate that I have worked steadily and I try to do my best because I have a huge responsibility for all the other ladies that come after me because one that makes a mistake is enough to then dismiss all the rest that are coming behind because that is how women are treated in the world unfortunately still. I hope this movie is very successful and it will open doors to other women. We just have to keep building and fighting and not letting anyone stop us.
Patricia Riggen: And there are no more beautiful dramas in film any more with mom and daughter stories. They no longer make them. We live in a world that is very male oriented and right now Hollywood is very male oriented in the themes in the movies. I think the reason why the studios are taking on something like this film is the faith aspect of it and that is great and that is why I embrace it artfully because if that is what allows us also to be able to make just human beautiful movies of women I welcome that.
Miracles from Heaven is in theaters now.