Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Belcourt hosts compelling cross-border drama Maria Full of Grace

"In an Entertainment Weekly interview, director Joshua Marston said that in making Maria Full of Grace, his intention was 'to confront stereotypes.' And the film does that, in a fashion. But this portrayal of a Colombian teenager who becomes a drug mule is exhilarating for being so much more than that. The film doesn't have a pedagogic feel; it doesn't seem to be teaching A Lesson About the Real Face of the Colombian People."

"Those subtexts are probably there, all right, but they stay buried. The focus of the film is entirely on the title character: a pregnant teen who leaves her job in a rose factory after a dispute with her boss. From there, she begins a harrowing journey to the streets of New York's Colombian section, where she is expected to deliver a swallowed cache of narcotics. But things go wrong with Maria's ability to keep the rubber-coated drug pellets inside her. The film works as a drug-smuggling procedural as her situation worsens."

"Catalina Sandino Moreno is perfect, a word I don't use casually, as Maria. It's hard to describe what's so good about her because it's like trying to pin down someone's breathing. She's a bit like Scarlett Johansson in that her greatest virtue is her assurance, her ability to just 'be' on camera - convincing you that she's being caught in the act, rather than Acting. The other performances in Maria Full of Grace are also small naturalistic gems, particularly Patricia Rae as Carla, the woman whose family hosts Maria for a time once she reaches New York (and who serves as a possible image of Maria's future)."

"Maria Full of Grace was honored with the Audience Award at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, and two awards at the 54th Berlin International Film Festival: Catalina Sandino Moreno shared the Silver Bear for Best Actress with Charlize Theron of Monster, and the film won the Alfred Bauer Prize for Best First Feature for director Joshua Marston."

Nashville Scene, The Belcourt Theatre

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