between Josh Marston, Director of Maria Full of Grace and Eric Hynes,
in response to the RS review
I wouldn't normally do this but could you pass on some thoughts to Eric Hynes?
Eric touches on some good points in asking what the
point of all this heart-felt realist cinema is for,
what it really changes in the world. To be sure, I ask
myself these questions frequently. If I were really
out to change the world I wouldn't be doing it through
film (or to put it more precisely, I do it in other
ways outside my filmwork). That said, I do hope that
the film has some effect beyond pure entertainment.
At one level, I hope gives us a different awareness
about the drug war. Normally, mules such as Maria are
demonized by drug war propaganda in the perpetuation
of policies that continue to try (in vain) to solve
the drug problem through criminal and military solutions.
By having people sympathize with Maria I hope the film
adds to a reform movement that would like to see the
drug problem as public health and economic issue rather
than a police issue.
On a more concrete level, we know that the film has
saved at least one life. The Colombian co-producer got
a call out of the blue from a 17-year-old guy in Colombia
who was calling to thank us. Apparently he had signed
on to be a mule, accepted the advance and two days before
his flight gone to a theater in Bogota to see the film.
He decided to pull out, had seen the film three times
and said he considered that the film had saved his life.
Obviously, I was not setting out to make government
anti-mule propaganda, but that was a very nice benefit.
The First Lady of Colombia has convened two screenings
in the Presidential Palace for politicians there and
the Colombian office of the United Nations has purchased
a print of the film for educational purposes. In the
U.S., the Drug Czar and the Colombian Ambassador are
now setting up screening and panel to have what I hope
will be an open discussion about the politics of the
drug war in Colombia.
There's no question that Summer movies are intended
to be fun and entertaining. But with so much mindless,
frivolous trash in the mainstream I think independent
cinema has the potential restore some meat and content
to the fare. And I don't think that has to be done at
the expense of entertainment value. I hope that the
box office success of Maria Full of Grace as
well as a slew of great documentaries this season proves
Thank you for an intelligent and thought-provoking critique.
All the best,
Dear Mr. Marston,
Thank you for taking the time to respond to my critique
of Maria Full of Grace. Your film is quite deserving
of its success, and hereís hoping it continues to function
- directly or indirectly - as an agent for enlightenment
and change. I only wish to clarify the rhetorical question
that I posed (and to which you graciously replied).
I know you were paraphrasing, but I didnít question
the point of socialist realist films - there are genres
far more deserving of such scrutiny, and ultimately
all films are made for some reason or another, however
opaque or palty the rationale (the remake of Psycho
comes to mind). Perhaps it is too fine a distinction,
but my question was: who are these films for? I think
itís great that audiences are seeing your film in Colombia,
and that potential drug mules are rethinking their choices.
But from your film I didnít realize that men were recruited
for the practice. I only know that Iím drawn into the
story by the sympathetic face of a beautiful woman.
Which is part of the genre, which is narrative technique,
which is all well and good. But in putting a face on
this specific problem, I wonder if the face - so like
the cinematic faces of so many other problems - overwhelms
it. And since it so often does, and ten years on we
remember more about the actress than we do about the
volatile situation dramatized, I mean to address the
mildly vampiric relationship filmmakers have with their
subject matter, in these films the blood spiked with
good intentions. It looks as if Maria Full of Grace
has a good chance at achieving the very rare feat of
nourishing both parties.
Thanks again for your thoughtful response. I look forward
to your next film.
I see the distinction. I have yet another for you.
I think I can confidently say that the film is equally
for Colombians and Americans. Whether the poorest Colombians
will see it, probably not yet as they don't spend their
money on movies. But the film will eventually be broadcast
If there is any question that that is related to the
fact of having used a very pretty face to tell the story
- a charge I am unquestionably guilty of - I can only
say that Catalina's visage helps make the film more
easy to go down - easier than the pellets to be sure.
As you do imply. But I don't know that that implies
that the blood has been spiked, as you put it. Had I
cast J. Lo or Penelope Cruz (as was suggested by various
so-called producers) then definitely there would be
something to question, as the face would never have
blended with the reality. However I think Catalina does
(just barely) fit into the landscape without rupturing
the world. That viewers might not learn that men also
swallow drugs can only be added to a whole list of things
that are not revealed in the film. If there was one
thing I learned in the process of re-working the script
it was that I could not tell every story at once (something
Traffic tried to do, and which - among other
things - caused that film to flounder in my estimation).
I focused on one corner of one experience of a very
large drug trade and drug war. And I used a pretty face
to do so. But I'm still sure why that's suspect.
I'm answering you on a plane. I'm happy to say that
my over-extended press junket is FINISHED! Which means
that you'll have to forgive me if I no longer take the
time to reply at length to the reply you're no doubt
already formulating. But send it anyway!