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"Maria Full of Grace":
Message from Maria
By Gabe Klinger

Maria.  
"Maria, Full of Grace"

Bringing to mind Royston Tan's infinitely superior Fifteen, Maria Full of Grace (Maria, llene eres de gracia, USA/Colombia 2003) acts as an instructive afterthought on the grave social issue of teen drug smuggling. Unlike its Thai contemporary, it's loftier and emotionally narrow-minded. As its title suggests, director Joshua Marston likes to lay his symbolism on thick, and never misses a moment to underline — in an aesthetically formal though disconcertingly familiar way — his main character Maria's alienation. To his credit, the film becomes unbearably tense, as Maria (played by the conveniently beautiful Catalina Sandino) is forced to swallow several large rubbers filled with heroin. The same scene is played out in Fifteen, though what makes the latter even more shocking to watch is that it appears without precedence though is still understandable within the context of the story.

Maria Full of Grace is thoroughly predictable, and ends, appropriately, more as afterthought than satisfying cinema. Early on the film role plays on the strong Latina, an annoying trend that's being pushed to the indie-mainstream with films like Real Women Have Curves, though arguably Maria's life in Bogotá would have been more interesting if it didn't devolve into message-y candidness.  

Gabe Klinger
© FIPRESCI, Viennale, 2004

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Talent Press

Contents
Introduction
"Maria Full of Grace"
Bodies of Water
Iranian Masks
Straub/Huillet
"Tarnation"
"André Valente"
Lauren Bacall
Lee Kang-sheng
"Los muertos"
"B (short)"