Book/Film Interpretation Project
Maria Full Of Grace
Director Joshua Marston takes a refreshing approach to film making by deliberately avoiding stereotypical representations and overly violent depictions in his documentary-style movie Maria Full of Grace. Marston, born in 1968 in California and a newcomer to film making with editing and writing to his credits, was sharply dedicated to creating a realistic representation of the Colombian way of life. He spent five years on the project and I am taken by Marston’s commitment to reality…depicted in every aspect of his filming but in particular to his willingness to involve regular, ongoing and evolving input from the cast through improvisation and regular rewrites. Even the inclusion of the Don Fernando character, the Colombian “go-to” person in Queens, N.Y., was rewritten into the script to include the real life Fernando, Orlando Tobon, following numerous conversations and collaborations with Tobon. But more about Tobon later. Marston’s focus on avoiding generalizations, thereby ensuring authenticity to the representation of daily life in Colombia, is evident throughout every component of the movie including the casting, the language, the music, the sets, even the order in which he tells the story. The attention given to the small details of every day life is critical to depicting those involved in the drug trade either as people, providing a human face to an industry that is generally faceless. The characters are developed with complexity in a way that avoids typical characterizations lending to an authentic sense of realism as well as to the palpable tension that builds and is maintained throughout the movie. The tension is even more notable as it is accomplished without the use of particularly violent images. Maria (played by Bogotá native Catalina Sandino Moreno), one example of complex character development, is a typical Colombian teenager. She is rebellious and serious; not a particularly good employee working long hard hours in a rose plantation. Maria goes to church, as do virtually all Colombians since 96% of the population is Roman Catholic; yet she has sinful interactions with her boyfriend. Maria lives with her extended family in a modest home as is typical. She loves her family and respects her mother, but resents having to work hard and provide for her sister and nephew; as any teenager would regardless of his/her family’s expectations. Maria’s entry into the drug trade is not plainly evident, but instead a subtle manipulation with a focus on economic benefits. One other significant character development, among many, is Fernando Orlando factually based on the life of Orlando Tobon and played by Tobon himself. Orlando is a central character with a strong sense of responsibility to Colombians, both alive and dead. This sense of responsibility is not uncommon in Colombian culture. In an article from MSNBC.com titled “Helping Colombian ‘drug mules’”, Tobon is described as a good Samaritan who has been in the United States for more than 30 years, and acts as a lifeline for Colombians in Queens, N.Y. For those who need work or help with taxes and travel, he is always and without condition available. For the unfortunate victims of the body packing trade, Tobon/Orlando works to find and notify their families and raise the funds necessary to repatriate the bodies. According to his commentary, Marston felt it was important to humanize the drug mule and subsequently depict the solution as economic and social, not military and criminal as he views the solution as economic and social. The argument made throughout is that subtle manipulation, not overt violence, is what brings everyday, middle class people to participate in the drug trade. The inclusion of the rose plantation, the factory environment in which Maria works, is a notable opening for the movie as the flower industry is a major contributor, along with oil and coffee, to the economics of...
Cited: Castellanso, Julissa. June 29, 1997. American University, Washington, D.C. 26 June 2007.
"Colombia." Britannica Book of the Year, 2002. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 1 July
“Colombia.” Encarta 2007. 2007. Encarta MSN.com. 26 June 2007.
Please join StudyMode to read the full document