Opinion: Why Movie "The Girl" Uses a White Face to Tell a Latino Story

"The central myth of the border says that hope is in the North, if you can just make it across the border, a new future exists," Riker said. "The problem with that is that many people North of the border don't believe that, and it also implies that there's no hope in the South."

Indeed, the movie brings us back to Oaxaca by its end, where Ashley finally finds happiness in beautiful expanses of a lush and mountainous paradise, reversing the South-to-North paradigm of most migration stories.

Still, for all its strengths, the story gets muddled by minor details, like Cornish's handle on Spanish, which is spoken for more than half of the film. During Riker's research he found that many Texans learned a brand of Spanish that one can't learn in school, that's picked up naturally through years of living around Chicano culture. But that's not the Spanish we heard in the film, unfortunately. Cornish's version of the language is one of a newcomer who doesn't yet understand tonal ebbs and flows of its cadences but somehow also knows the subjunctive tenses and colloquial phrases. For Spanish speaking audiences, the accent may be distracting.

Admittedly, Cornish, 30, says taking on Spanish was one of the more intimidating parts of her role. She started studying it 3 months before the film started and continued speaking to her young co-star for the rest of the film.

"I was so terrified about taking on the language," Cornish said. "In a way the only good thing about it was that it overrode all my other fears and challenges during the film."

During her two months of filming in Mexico, Cornish says she became very close with the young Maritza, and the chemistry certainly rings true on camera in the film's final scenes. Cornish says she also gained a strong appreciation for the importance of the film's message.

"I was presented with faces and stories and real people going through this," she said. "A lot of people die, a lot of things go wrong... when a man leaves behind his children and his wife to make a better life for them, it's just heartbreaking."

From the producers of "Maria Full of Grace," and the executive producers of "Beasts of the Southern Wild," David Riker's "The Girl" premieres on March 8th in New York, and March 15th in Tucson and Los Angeles.

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