Los Angeles – In 2011, a little girl from Texas named Anna Beam who was suffering from a debilitating intestinal disease had a near-death experience when she fell into a hollow cottonwood tree. Hours after being rescued, she said she went to heaven and met Jesus, and that he told her she would be healed from the life-threatening digestive disorder that blocked her intestines.
After her ordeal, Anna did in fact become symptom-free – a recovery doctors could only describe as miraculous. Her incredible story was not only turned into a memoir, “Miracles from Heaven,” but also into a namesake movie out in theaters March 18th.
“If you’re Latino, you believe in Miracles…” the movie’s director, Patricia Riggen, who is Mexican, told Fox News Latino. “This movie has such a strong message on faith, besides everything else that the movie has, that’s an aspect that the whole community will identify with.”
“Miracles from Heaven” stars Jennifer Garner as Anna Beam’s mother, and actress and singer Queen Latifah as a family friend who provides them with emotional support.
Riggen also recruited Mexican actor Eugenio Derbez to join the cast. They both worked together on her film, “Under the Same Moon,” where Derbez played a migrant worker.
In “Miracles,” Derbez plays a U.S.-based Mexican gastroenterologist-pediatrician, Dr. Samuel Nurko, who becomes Anna’s doctor, and is loved by his patients because of his child-like personality.
“When I was training for this role, I studied how we work inside, and our body is a miracle by itself!” said Derbez, adding that the movie changed his perspective on life. "I realized the real miracles are those tiny ones that we don’t see every single day, for me, now I know my kids are a miracle, watching my baby smiling at me every single day is a miracle.”
Derbez said he himself is thankful for the miracles in his own life.
After reaching success as an actor and producer in his native country of Mexico, he decided to test his luck in the United States.
His first major crossover project was the highly acclaimed 2013 film “Instructions not Included” – which he produced, directed and starred in. The bilingual film was a game changer, grossing more than $45 million to date and garnering rave critical reviews.
“My life is one before (“Instructions not Included”) and after. A lot of doors opened here in the U.S. I decided to close a cycle in Mexico,” Derbez said. "I left behind my entire life and my career to start a new one here in the U.S. and I was really scared of leaving my comfort zone.”
It seems like Derbez’s gamble paid off. He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on March 10th, a feat only given to major Hollywood players.
“For me that was a sign that I was doing things right.” Derbez told FNL. “Any actor in the world would kill to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, I never imagined that this was going to happen,” he said.
He also signed a deal with Lionsgate and with NBC/Universal Television.
Mexico’s success in Hollywood both in front of and behind the camera is becoming more and more apparent, thanks to directors such as Alejandro González Iñárritu, who won back-to-back Oscars for directing, and Mexican cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who won Oscars three years in a row.
“I think that we have learned in Mexico how to make movies, our craft is very good, and when we come here we have a fresh vision,” said Riggen about the success of her colleagues.
But, she added, there is still a lot more work to be done.
“It’s very difficult. I’m one of the few female directors – I think we are like 5 percent, and if you are Latin 1 or 2 percent,” Riggen said. “I have to fight every day really hard, I have to fight really hard, and just keep the struggle, keep fighting so that everyone comes after me has an easier and time that I did.”