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  •  REVIEW: MARIA FULL OF GRACE

    Maria Full of Grace

    A Colombia education

    "Maria Full of Grace" paints a passionate but never overdramatized portrait of women who fly to America with drugs in their stomachs.

    By JOSHUA TANZER
    Offoffoff.com

    You've heard the news items about "mules" who carry drugs into the U.S. in their stomachs, given them a quick "eeeeewwwwgrosssss," dismissed the people involved as crazy, and moved on to the next headline. This is the not-at-all-crazy story of one of those people.

      
    MARIA FULL OF GRACE
    Original title: Maria, llena eres de gracia.
    Written and directed by: Joshua Marston.
    Produced by: Becky Glupczynski, Rodrigo Guerrero, Paul S. Mezey, Jaime Osorio Gómez, Orlando Tobon.
    Cast: Catalina Sandino Moreno, Guilied Lopez, Patricia Rae, Orlando Tobon, John Álex Toro, Yenny Paola Vega.
    Cinematography: Jim Denault.
    Edited by: Lee Percy.

    Related links: Official site
     SCHEDULE
    Lincoln Plaza Broadway between 62nd and 63rd Landmark Sunshine Cinema 143 East Houston St

     RELATED ARTICLES


      Interview: Joshua Marston
    The first-time director talks about the work and the spirit that went into his award-winning debut "Maria Full of Grace."



      Interview: Catalina Sandino Moreno
    The first-time film actress, born in Colombia and now living in New York, talks about her powerful, Oscar-nominated debut in "Maria Full of Grace."

    Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2004
  • Overview
  • One Shot
  • Deadline
  • Maria Full of Grace
  • Persons of Interest
  • Official site
    Other festivals
  • Human Rights Watch 2001
  • Human Rights Watch 2003
  • "Maria Full of Grace" starts in a small town outside of Bogotá, Colombia, where there's only one job — one honest one, anyway — and Maria has it. The rose plantation is a thoroughly efficient operation, with dozens of pickers, packers and — Maria's specialty — thorn strippers. Seeds, soil and subsistence labor are converted into bouquets of beauty for your table or your beloved. But all is not going well for Maria in work or in life, and she abruptly quits.

    "What are you going to do?" her mother asks with considerable desperation, knowing that Maria's paycheck supports the whole family, including Maria's sister and baby niece.

    "I'll find another job," Maria says.

    "What other job?" the mother howls. "Around here there's nothing but flowers."

    That's where she's wrong. In nearby Bogotá awaits another opportunity, and it pays much better than de-thorning. All Maria has to do is get on a plane and carry some "rolls of film" to their destination in New York (actually New Jersey, a "small town outside New York"), where she'll be paid $100 a unit. Knowing full well what's meant by a "roll of film," Maria accepts.

    Maria's journey is an all-expense-paid tour of the drug underground, where one false move can land the naive teenager in prison or the grave — and one phone call back to Colombia could be a death sentence for her whole family. At least three other mules have been sent on the same plane ("If one gets caught it's easier for the others to get through") and the separate fates of this ferrying foursome show some of the things that can happen — many of them bad.

    Maria Full of Grace  
    The danger gives each of their stories a special urgency, as well as a peculiar irony. These are young women whose lives were of no great value to anyone when they were flower-packers, and they are, if anything, even less valued once they go to work for the traffickers. But the millions of dollars worth of drugs in their bellies make them very valuable shipping containers indeed, as momentarily precious but ultimately disposable as the wrapping paper on a Christmas present. They become important to us as an audience because they're the focus of the film, but to their factory foreman, the drug boss who sends them on their journey, the DEA officers who try to intercept them at the airport, the gangsters who take delivery of them in the states, and presumably the user who shoots up their cargo on the streets, they are pawns in a much bigger game. Whether their reward was a few thousand dollars or complete ruin will not be long remembered.

    First-time writer-director Joshua Marston has made a momentous film that is passionate without being overdramatic. Maria's story is told — and impressively acted by Colombian-born, New York-based actress Catalina Sandino Moreno — with a directness that keeps the tone tense but realistic. Many small moments are done perfectly — like the little start that the crucifix-clutching Maria gives when the plane, undoubtedly the first she's ever been on, jolts off the runway. Even scenes obviously intended to have symbolic meaning — like an early one in which she looks up at the sky and tells her boyfriend Juan that she wants to go there — never feel contrived. (Wilson Guerrero does terrific work, incidentally, in the secondary role of Juan, as does Orlando Tobėn as a sort of neighborhood fixer in Queens.) Because so much is done right and so little is oversold, we can easily believe in this small story and multiply it in our minds into the thousands of small, human stories it undoubtedly represents.

    JULY 3, 2004
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK


    Reader comments on Maria Full of Grace:

  • finally   from jorge, Jul 14, 2004
  • us customs   from escobar, Jul 20, 2004
  • Re: us customs   from Colombia Bella, Jul 21, 2004
  • Excellent   from Colombia Bella, Jul 21, 2004
  • Re: Excellent   from Valérie, Feb 8, 2007
  • There are alternatives   from Tracy Alegria, Jul 27, 2004
  • Re: There are alternatives   from Colombia Bella, Jul 30, 2004
  • Re: There are alternatives   from American-Colombian, Sep 6, 2004
  • Re: There are alternatives   from Sylvie, Oct 5, 2004
  • Re: There are alternatives   from Colombia Bella, Nov 24, 2004
  • Re: There are alternatives   from Colombian, Apr 19, 2005
  • Re: I think you missed the point   from Suzi-Q, Jun 28, 2007
  • Re: There are alternatives   from Claudia, Oct 31, 2005
  • maris fo g   from joe, Jan 8, 2005
  • Maria Full of Grace   from Uptown, Jan 16, 2005
  • the movie is wonderful   from humberto, Feb 11, 2005
  • Re: the movie is wonderful   from Nick, Feb 27, 2005
  • Re: the movie is wonderful   from sara, Apr 11, 2005
  • greetings   from shashi, Mar 2, 2005
  • Thanks   from Sara, Apr 11, 2005
  • I'd..., Would you...?   from Charles - Brasil, May 7, 2005
  • Maria Full of Grace !   from JULIANA HERRERA, Feb 6, 2006
  • Not really good   from Roberto Gomez, Mar 5, 2006
  • [no subject]   from lissette, Apr 18, 2006
  • Fantastic   from Bianca, Aug 2, 2006
  • LOVE IT!!   from Marcia Lemus, Mar 23, 2011

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