Maria Full of Grace (María llena eres de gracia) was written as well as directed by Joshua Marston and released in 2004. This movie is a result of a joint film production between Colombia and the United States. Maria Full of Grace premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and won 14 awards including Independent Spirit Award for the Best First Screenplay. In addition to this, the movie received 10 various nominations. Catalina Sandino Moren, a Columbian actress, was named the Best Actress at the Berlin Film Festival and nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress and Oscar in 2005 for her leading role in the film (Holden, 2004).

Background Setting

Maria Full of Grace tells the story of a seventeen-year-old girl who lives and works in Colombia in a little rural town. Maria shares the same house with her family which consists of her grandmother, older sister, mother and nephew. In the town like this, it is quite common to see a couple of generations leaving under the same roof. Maria’s job is very monotonous and her task is to prepare roses for export. This rose plantation is basically the only “decent” place where local people can earn some money. However, the way employees are being treated makes it impossible for Maria to work there. After quitting her job in the rose industry, Maria gets involved in the drug trade and becomes a drug mule trying to smuggle 62 pellets of heroin in her stomach into the United States (Williams, 2005).

This movie depicts a very realistic story which happens every day. The problems that Joshua Marston raises make his work socially relevant. Drug trade, poor working conditions, illegal migration belong to the type of problems that affect everybody to a lesser or greater extent no matter if a person is directly involved in it or just a part of the society where those problems exist.

Analysis of the Cultures

Maria Full of Grace shows immigrant experience and the fact that the story is told in Spanish makes it even more realistic. Since the second part of the movie is filmed in New York, the audience gets a chance to observe the Colombian community of immigrants in the United States. What makes this movie especially interesting is that two different cultures are represented in the movie from a human perspective. Because of the main theme of the movie, people in Colombia and Colombian community in the United States understand film differently. In Columbia, the film is seen more like anti-drug propaganda, while immigrants appreciate it more for breaking the stereotype that Colombians are “here to steal jobs from Americans and they’re all greedy and they’re not suffering in the least” (Clark, 2004).

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Global Implications

Even though Maria Full of Grace is mainly about the Colombian community, the problems that the main characters go through can be applied to literally any country in the world. The central theme of the movie is definitely drug trade. It was estimated that “in 2000 Colombia grew 74% of the world’s coca leaves, the raw ingredient for cocaine” (T. W., 2013). Even though Colombia is involved in drug trafficking more than any other country in the world, the problem of drug abuse exists in every corner of the world. Many people of different nationalities can relate themselves to the leading characters in this movie. Another relevant idea presented in the movie is unintended pregnancy among teenagers. Maria’s decision to keep a baby serves as a great example for many teen girls around the world. It is an interesting fact that having an abortion never came across her mind as if becoming a mother was something she had been preparing herself for the whole life.

Quite a broad topic of immigration is addressed in this movie as well. It is shown what most of the immigrants have to leave behind with the hope of giving a better future for their children. “In New York City, the Colombian immigrant community has grown to 107,000 since the earliest immigration wave” (Polner, 2004, p.2) Those who crossed the border of their home countries often do not see their relatives for years and many of them never get a chance to meet their families again. More and more people all over the world leave their homes seeking for new opportunities and hoping to change their lives for the better.

Impact of the Movie

While watching this movie I was constantly expecting something bad to happen. I got this feeling because Maria was making the wrong decisions. At first, she left her job, then she agreed on being a drug mule, later she runs away from the hotel room and took all the drugs with her, finally she lied to a sister of her friend. However, in the end of the movie, Maria finally makes the right thing staying in the United States and giving her unborn baby a chance for a better future. From this movie I have learned that even a chain of worst events can actually lead to positive and promising changes in one’s life. I think that the most important thing is to draw the right conclusions from the problems everyone may face.

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Joshua Marston’s work carries a clear religious message for the viewers. This movie shows the modern interpretation of some Biblical events. Maria meets various characters with absolutely different moral values, who test her throughout the movie (Thomson, 2004). At the beginning of the movie we meet a rebellious teen girl and by the end of the movie she transforms into a mature adult. I assume that if there was a second part of the movie, it would have a different setting and the main character would possibly be Maria’s child.

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