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on 21 July 2017
you must watch this true movie good cast this really happend
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on 6 May 2009
having doubts about this DVD I borrowed a copy from the library. The acting, the reality of the coverage of this touchy subject made me think deeply about the background to the many 'mulas' who risk transporting drugs from S.A. to U.S.A. - the tremendous pressure exerted on these girls by the drug suppliers, the brutal denial of their bravery (albeit it illegal) and the many ill or unlikely consequences of their, primarily, only opportunity to raise their standard of living. One reads of these cases in the press, but which tabloid actually ascertains the basic life story or facts behind each, or any, of the numerous girl 'victims'. Victims they are, whether they die in the attempt; manage to evade the law or the drug suppliers; or manage to return to their home country - only to be pressed into service yet again menaced by the ever present threats to their family.

I have now ordered a copy of this DVD to join my Spanish film collection.

Don't miss it.
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on 1 February 2009
I've watched this film in its entirety and parts of it about 6 tmes and it never gets old. There are new layers in it every time I watch it. If you are interested in the cocain drug trade, or young people in Andean countries this is worth both time and money. This example is supposed to be from Colombia, but the topic was too touchy to film there so it was allegedly filmed in neighbouring Ecuador. Up and coming Colombian actress Catalino Sandino does a fine job and the scenes from Jackson Heights are authentic.
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This film proved to be something of an education for me. Having never been involved in drugs, I've not really thought about the poor saps who bring them into the country (be it here in the UK or over the pond, or anywhere). This film uses documentarial first hand experiences to build a film which humanises the faceless world of the drugs mule.

The story of Maria, the young woman (17) exploited in the workplace and overly depended on by her family for her wages is gripping. Pregnant and desperate to escape the existence she has in order to find life, she finds herself and her friend involved in the ugly world of drug trafficking. It's from this point on that we get to see how the underworld can seem friendly enough to begin with, but the danger of the situation becomes clear when an off the cuff remark about `paying her family a visit' (and consequently naming them) is made - the film is a stomach clencher from this point on as you desperately will Maria to not come to any harm.

This is a film which allows us to see the human story behind the illegal substances on the streets. The traffickers aren't evil, they are poor people being exploited and too scared `get out'. The most disturbing scene in the film involves a trafficker called Lucy, and depicts what happens if one of the pellets opens up inside the stomach - although nothing graphic is shown, you are left in no doubt as to what has happened. This film certainly does not glamorise the drugs world.

The film threw me slightly, I knew what the film was about (it's all in the synopsis on the back of the DVD cover) - but the cover picture initially looked to me, to be depicting a scene of holy communion, the title of the film almost enforces this. But after watching this, I see it another way now.

In a nutshell: This film isn't about drugs, well, it is, but the driving force of the film is Maria and her journey. The drugs do play a pivotal role though, but not in a traditional sense. There are no scenes of drug taking - the impact of the film is how the people who carry the drugs are made to feel looked after, but soon come to realise that they mean nothing to the people pulling the strings. They are simply a carry-case, the contents of their stomachs is what is of value. A moving film, well written/directed by Joshua Marston, and with an absolutely fantastic performance by Catalina Sandino Moreno to make Maria truly believable.
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on 3 February 2010
Great film about Columbian drug mules with a breakout performance by Catalina Moreno. The film is intense, tragic and thaught provoking all at the same. The director does a terrific job of humanizing the characters and showing their hoplessness and despair. Definitely one of the best independant films I've seen in recent years.

I imported the Blu from the UK which looks and sounds great since it's not available in North American for some strange reason. There's also a very good and insightful commentary from the writer/director

Highly Recommended!!
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on 14 September 2005
Joshua Marston wrote and directed Maria Full of Grace.
He produced the first draft of the script in 2 days but by the time he had modified it and done the filming, 5 years had elapsed.And it shows.This film is a faultless masterpiece that
depicts the full horror of women who act as "mules," taking drugs in their stomachs from Columbia to the United States.
Catalina Sandino Moreno,who plays Maria,is superb in the lead role,and the story is told from her perspective.
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Maria Alvarez (Catalina Sandino Moreno) is a seventeen year old living a poor farming life in Columbia with her mother, sister and her niece whose father has deserted them. After losing her only job in her community, Maria finds herself involved with smuggling heroin into the USA. This would give her enough money to start a new life in what is referred to as `the magical land' (El Norte). Desperate, she finds herself in a situation completely unlike she expected and meets tragedy and betrayals everywhere she goes. However, there are those kind enough to understand her and support her - if she manages to live. Moreno was up for Best Actress for this role, which is uncommon for a non-UK or American actress.
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on 8 December 2014
IIt's a good film about a young woman from South America and some of the things she has to do to escape poverty. Fantastic photography and performances.
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This is an outstanding independent film by director-writer Joshua Marston that has received excellent critical reviews and caused quite a stir at various film festivals, winning the 2004 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award, and garnering a 2004 Best Actress award at the Berlin Film Festival for newcomer Catalina Sandino Moreno. Filmed in Spanish with subtitles, it is definitely a must see film.
The film tells the story of a beautiful, headstrong teenager, Maria Alvarez (Catalina Sandino Moreno), who lives in a rural area of Columbia with limited opportunities. She works on a flower plantation and helps to support her mother, her sister, and her sister's out-of-wedlock baby. She has a best friend, Blanca (Yenny Paola Vega), and a boorish boyfriend, Juan (Wilson Guerrero). All of them have limited futures, and Maria seems to sense that she is definitely on the road to nowhere.
Maria is sick of her demanding family, as she sees that her sister, who does nothing to contribute to her family's welfare, is treated better by their mother than she is. Maria is also tired of her job at the flower plantation, where she is treated little better than a serf. Pregnant by her boyfriend but unwilling to enter into a loveless marriage with him, she is introduced to Franklin (John Alex Toro), a seemingly more worldly young man than she is accustomed to meeting. It is he who introduces her to the high risk job of being a drug mule to the United States. The money, five thousand dollars, is far more than Maria is accustomed to earning, and, suddenly, the inherent risks seem to fade into the background. It seems to the pregnant Maria that the whole world could be her oyster.
The film gives a very explicit birds-eye view of the life as a drug mule. It shows the viewer just how the process works, from the swallowing of the encapsulated drugs to their eventual evacuation from the drug mule's body. It also shows what can happen when the drugs leak into the mule's system. Of course, when dealing with illicit drugs, one is also forced into interacting with drug dealers. In her brief career as a drug mule, Maria is faced with all of these situations, as is her best friend, Blanca, who against Maria's advice, also makes the journey to the United States, stomach bloated with drugs, along with two other girls.
Once in flight, there are signs of things not going as smoothly as planned. When they land, further complications arise. These increase, once they are in the drug dealer's lair, and the evacuation process begins. Unfortunately, the worst case scenario presents itself, and Maria reacts in a way that has the potential for extreme ramifications for her and her family. Maria, however, is a survivor by nature. When the danger is averted, and the time comes for her return home, Maria makes a last minute decision that will forever change her life and that of her unborn child.
Catalina Sandino Moreno is a natural, and it does not hurt that she is also beautiful. Her portrayal of Maria is sensitive, yet, strong and compelling. She is, indeed, full of grace. She is also the linchpin around whom the entire film revolves, and she certainly is up to the job. The screenplay is tautly written with just the right amount of tension. Moreover, Joshua Marston's deft direction, as well as the stellar performances by the entire cast, adds up to a superlative film that should not be missed.
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on 24 February 2005
Catalina Sandino Moreno recently won a Best Actress Academy Award nomination for her stunning portrayal of Maria in Joshua Marston's "Maria Full of Grace." This was a debut performance for Ms. Sandino Moreno, a native of Bogotá, Colombia, who developed an interest in acting while in high school. She subsequently studied theater and acting and caught Marston's eye when she auditioned for this part. He took a risk by casting the inexperienced young actress as Maria and, in return, she delivered - bringing tremendous depth to the complex and demanding role.
Seventeen year-old Maria Alvarez works on a flower plantation outside Bogotá, stripping thorns off roses in preparation for shipping. It's a dead-end job and her future doesn't look to improve much. A spirited, independent young women, with a sense of adventure, she is obviously bored with the work and her abusive supervisor, disenchanted with her immature boyfriend, and fed-up with her family, which receives almost her entire paycheck. When Maria discovers she is pregnant, she accepts the offer to carry drugs to the US as a mule. There is no way, however, that she could have imagined the nightmarish and threatening world she becomes involved with.
Films about the drug trade abound, from this year's "El Rey," (also up for an Academy Award), to "Traffic," "Veronica Guerin," "Trainspotting," "Blow," even 1971's extraordinary "The French Connection," to name a few. However, "Maria Full of Grace" offers a totally different perspective on the business of drugs and drug smuggling. Even though the primary focus is on the mules here, a much broader picture is portrayed. It is painful, and extremely intense, to watch the desperate Maria force herself to swallow almost 70 thumb-sized pellets filled with finely powered heroin. She takes medication first to slow her digestion, all the while under the watchful eye of her runner. The danger of discovery and death is ever present, as is the potential risk to her family if anything goes wrong. A Colombian mule can earn between $5000. to $8000. per trip. Considering that the average annual per capita income is around $2,000, one gets a general understanding of why the girl might imperil herself to this extent. I felt a terrible sense of sadness throughout much of the movie. This particular film does conclude on a hopeful note, I think - for Maria anyway.
Marston, who directed from his own script, takes us through the entire harrowing run in a manner so realistic that I felt I was watching a documentary at times. The building tension on the commercial plane flight to New York had me literally on the edge of my seat. And Catalina Sandino Moreno is a natural - absolutely gifted! This film is outstanding - certainly one of the best movies to be made on the subject. The supporting cast also deserves kudos, with special mention to Yenny Paola Vega, who plays the tenacious Blanca, and Orlando Tobon - who is not a professional actor. His character, Don Fernando, is taken from fact not fiction. In Jackson Heights, Queens, Orlando Tobon is called the "mayor of Little Colombia." He makes his living as an accountant and travel agent, but he also serves his community as a social service counselor and all-purpose guide to many of the thousands of Colombian immigrants who come to live in his ethnically diverse neighborhood. Tobon is also known as "the undertaker of the mules" for his work helping families repatriate the remains of Colombians who die smuggling drugs into New York.
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