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Maria, Full of Grace

This is a distressing though honest view of one young woman’s life-changing and life-threatening journey through the dark and scary world of drug trafficking, taking her from her rural town in Colombia to the streets of Queens, NY. Starting the film as an employee of a flower factory, pregnant Maria Alvarez, in search of some desperately needed money for her family, takes the risky plunge to become a “drug mule”.

According to Dark Horizons Correspondent, Paul Fischer, this film is a “…powerful and painfully honest look at the flip side of the American Dream.” Maria portrays one of the many who look to immigrate to the US for better opportunity with an ambivalence that has them forever longing for their home.

Playing himself in the movie, Orlando Tobon, often referred to as the “Mayor of Little Colombia”, in his one-room travel agency in Queens, has worked with many immigrants for more than 15 years, collecting the unclaimed bodies of less fortunate drug couriers, raising money for their burial, helping people to find employment as well as tax preparation. You will find an interesting MSNBC interview with Orlando from May 2004 at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5050399/ .

My overall impression of this film was with mixed emotions, one of a microscope portrayal of an innocent woman looking to the promise of a significant sum of money through one of the most dangerous and hated activities in society. I sat through most of the film white-knuckled, praying that Maria would make it out alive to be able to use that money towards an honest and bright future in her adopted country.

As the Washington Post in July 2004 stated it “We think about the vulnerable inner structure of women's bodies, the fragile life inside Maria's womb. We face customs officers who have seen other mules trying the same thing. We see sweat on female foreheads, and we can almost feel the cold, clammy skin. We hear the heavy breathing of fear. We make this journey, too.”

On the other hand, at times, without getting into a soapbox, I was angry at the reality that people do smuggle drugs into our country because of the upsetting effects of it seen in the media, though this film carefully focuses its energies back on the people swallowing the drug pellets. I couldn’t help but feel the human side of the women’s ordeal and their obvious desperation. Even though at times, it’s difficult to watch, I would recommend it. And for lovers of the Spanish language, it’s shown in Spanish (with subtitles)!

By: AmeriSpan

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