Review – Maria Full of Grace

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Maria Full of Grace is a Colombian film by Joshua Marston that explores the issues of desperation and hope of escape, as well as the realities of drug trafficking through the life of a girl named Maria.

At only seventeen years old, Maria Alvarez finds herself in need of a job to support he family, in her desperation opting for the opportunity to be a drug mule. The viewer is taken on her journey as she learns the perils of the occupation.

The film doesn’t exaggerate or romanticize the drug trade; it accurately depicts its harsh realities. It is not camouflaged by spectacular characters, comedic relief, or complex plot twists.

Desperation is a significant theme. It is most easily recognized in Maria. All of her troubles come from desperation. She is not a bad or unreasonable person at heart – she is simply struggling in life, and thus motivated by nothing more than desperation. An example is her likely desperation for love, an escape from her strife, and attention unlike what she gets at home. So she gets a boyfriend far less than what she deserves and becomes pregnant. Her desperation for money is another example; because she needs to support her family, she becomes a drug mule. This is the greatest of Maria’s struggles.

The desire to escape is another big theme. Maria begins with the longing to escape her terrible job, her harsh home life, and poverty. After becoming a drug mule, she discovers the horrors of the work and fears for her life. In the United States, she looks for opportunity for escape from the dangerous job as well as the struggles she faces in Colombia.

The portrayal of this world, the world of drug cartels and their young, female mules, is striking. And this film particularly depicts a strong contrast between the life available in Colombia to a girl like Maria, and life in the U.S. We have no reason to believe Maria’s life will ever truly be better, other than the fact she will never let herself be a drug mule again. However, the film leaves us with Maria and her hope for a better life for herself and her unborn child, and we as viewers can do nothing but hope with her.

– Britney

“Quiero contar, mi hermano, un pedacito de la historia negra…”

Let’s change gears for a bit. Here’s some links to some great history/ discussions about the film industries of Colombia, Brazil, Nicaragua, and Bolivia!

Brazil:

http://filmmakermagazine.com/63954-culture-wars-talking-brazilian-cinema-and-its-discontents-with-director-kleber-mendonca-filho/

http://www.filmlinc.com/blog/entry/whats-your-favorite-brazilian-film

Bolivia:

http://www.drclas.harvard.edu/publications/revistaonline/fall-2011/crash-course-bolivian-cinema

http://www.filmbirth.com/bolivia.html

Colombia:

Film List: http://www.imdb.com/list/pT1x-wzMz68/

http://www.cinematropical.com/Cinema-Tropical/colombian-cinema-is-ready-for-its-close-up.html

http://colombiareports.com/colombia-news/culture/22185-colombias-film-industry-becomes-force-to-be-reckoned-with.html

Nicaragua:

http://www.socialistfilms.org/2006/06/alsino-and-condor-nicaragua-cuba-1982.html

http://www.camilafilms.com/index.en

Quote:

“… de la historia nuestra” -Jose Arroyo Rebelion (Colombia)

-Anna O.

Los Colores de la Montana

Manuel and his friends read guerrilla graffiti brazenly scrawled on the wall of their tranquil rural schoolhouse.

A personal favorite of mine, this film is not a documentary but rather a story and a mild one at that about how drug related violence affects the lives of innocent bystanders in some places. Set in the rolling foothills of the Andes in Colombia, the film depicts a young boy and his journey in realizing that the world around him is changing. We watch as his community dwindles away for fear of the approaching danger. In the end it takes the abduction and perhaps suggested murder of his father for the family to flee the area.

I find the film very powerful every time I watch it because it very accurately portrays the humble honest of the farmer, and also paints the main character not as a victim, but a stubborn, free spirited child who, like any child, will not easily be discouraged from mischief or the rocky misgivings of growing up. The movie wonderfully reveals an example not only of the consequences of the violence that is being prolonged by the drug trade, but also gives us a taste of a life we will never know and a culture we probably will never get to encounter.

-Anna O.

Plan Colombia

Crops destroyed by the chemical complex we spray on them to “fight drug production” (…the drug production that is RISING.)

Directed by:

Gerard Ungerman

Audrey Brohy

Netflix summary:

Ed Asner narrates this documentary about U.S. involvement in Colombia’s drug trafficking and civil unrest. The film examines the impact of chemical spraying and military funding and reveals alternate U.S. interests. Features interviews with Noam Chomsky, the late Senator Paul Wellstone, Colombian Presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, Congressmen John Conyers and Jim McGovern, U.S. State Department officials, guerilla leaders and others.

So, here we are again with coca leaves.

Only this time the US is not only instigating violence with the country, but also endangering innocent people in the most long-range suffering possible. Our government is fumigating ‘coca’ crops with chemicals that are also reaching other crops like corn and bananas. Not only is this destroying the economic prosperity of small farmers, but causes skin problems, birth defects,  fertility issues, tumors, and organ dysfunction. It also reaches the waters that compose the Amazon basin, infecting not only Colombia, but Ecuador, Peru and some parts of Brazil as well.

Just as in Bolivia, the violence this effort has caused in needless and victimizes thousands of innocent people. The US outsources their efforts to Colombian military and paramilitary forces; in areas where these forces clash with the FARC, the result is sometimes literally explosive.

Due to this unrest, entire communities are displaced, making Colombia come in third in the list of countries with internal refugees. Many flee the country, flooding Ecuador and Venezuela with refugees which create an entire new social issue in those countries- some of which included racism against Colombians and the small-scale spread of violence across borders.

In my opinion, the US is doing it wrong. Not only are their operations causing chaos and death, but this fumigation method is the least cost effective, wasting our tax payers money- your money. The military involvement is sketchy at best-  as funds are misused and corruption tears the system set up to keep peace.

Go here for more on fumigation: http://www.beyondpesticides.org/photostories/week_19/week_19.php

-Anna O.