Patricia Riggen is a rarity in Hollywood.

She is one of the few Latina directors that has achieved success in an industry dominated by white males.

Riggen, who was born and raised in Mexico, on Friday will release her latest movie “Girl in Progress,” starring Eva Mendes, a movie that she says was difficult to get off the ground.

“Movies with Latina leads are not something that this town is interested in,” Riggen said. “They don’t really make them, they’re hard to make.”

“Girl in Progress” highlights a frayed relationship between a single mother (Eva Mendes) and her teenage daughter (Cierra Ramírez.)  

“The movie is about her and her struggles as a young mom, as a young woman herself trying to find her place,” Riggen explained.

In 2007, Riggen’s movie “Under the Same Moon,” starring Kate del Castillo, was an international success, and she recently directed Disney Channel’s 2011 highly rated original film, “Lemonade Mouth.”

“Being a Mexican woman, it’s really hard because people don’t believe in you,” Riggen told Fox News Latino. “Then you don’t believe in yourself, it’s a whole psychological thing that we have but I think it’s changing.”

The director praised Mendes on being a strong Latina actress who fit the role perfectly.

“[She] did an amazing job,” Riggen said. “She had to have very specific things, she was more like an American.”

There was a short list of actresses considered for the lead role, but Mendes was the ideal candidate, the director said.

In this role, we see Mendes portraying a gritty, unpolished character that Riggen said “is a real, beautiful, flawed human being.”

“It is a wonderful new side of Eva we haven’t seen,” said Riggen.

The difficulties between mother-daughter relationships are a universal story, but Riggen hopes that the fact that the characters are Latino won’t dissuade the general audience from seeing it.

“There are two things we have right here,” she said. “It’s female and it’s Latin, and if we show that we care about these movies they will get made more often.”

“Female directors will have more chances because it’s tough,” she added.

Riggen says that African-American moviegoers have achieved something that Latinos should strive for.

“The black audience has managed to create an industry for themselves,” Riggen said. “They did it and it’s awesome and they now have the ability to have a budget for their films and have a constant flow of films.”

The director says it’s now the audience’s turn to go to the box office and show that Latinos can open movies.

Naibe Reynoso is a freelance reporter from Los Angeles, California.  She can be reached via her twitter: @NaibeReynoso

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Naibe Reynoso is a freelance reporter from Los Angeles, California. Follow her @naibereynoso

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