Director: Joshua Marston
Cast: Catalina Sandino Moreno, Yenny Paola Vega, Giulied Lopez
Before watching this movie, I had no idea that people like Maria (Moreno) were called drug mules. Yes, ignorant much. I agree. Maria, Full of Grace is a movie about a young 17-year old from Colombia who works at a flower plantation. From the beginning we see that she is unhappy and frustrated with her job dethorning rose stems. The final straw is when her boss makes her clean her own vomit off the rose stems and continue working, in spite of her repeatedly saying that she was feeling ill.
She quits her job and is berated by her mother and sister for doing so for it is clear that the family needs her income to get by. Meanwhile, Maria and her boyfriend, Juan aren’t doing too great either and everything turns topsy-turvy when she realises her bouts of vomiting are because she is pregnant. Juan proposes to her but she refuses realising that she doesn’t love him. Now what? No job, a surprise pregnancy and a family who needs her income.
She proceeds to Bogota to look for a job and the man taking her there offers her a job – as a drug mule. She meets another man who tells her what her job is and what she will be paid. She has to swallow pellets of cocaine, travel to New York, excrete the pellets and hand them over to the intermediary there. These are stories one has heard of and read about in the papers but to actually watch the process, to see on screen how a drug mule works – it is depressingly mind-blowing. Maria agrees to be a drug mule and is offered a lot of money for the assignment which is not only illegal but also extremely dangerous. She is warned that even if one pellet is missing, her family will be in danger. And the biggest risk of all – a pellet could burst inside, killing the mule.
She meets another mule, Lucy (Lopez) who advises her to practice swallowing grapes to prepare herself for the pellets. But I don’t think anything could’ve prepared her for the pellets. She swallows more than 50 pellets and is on her way to New York. Her best friend, Blanca(Vega), also joins her as a mule. What struck me about the two girls were there demeanours that were poles apart. Maria is palpably nervous, fearful and worried. Blanca, on the other hand, is matter-of-fact about the whole process….as though being a drug mule is something as innocuous as dethorning rose stems. They finally get to New York and their friend Lucy takes ill on the way and dies because a pellet burst inside her.
What will Maria and Blanca do in New York? Will they caught or will they be able to safely pass the pellets and get on with their lives? Watch the movie to experience a whole other side to the world of drug smuggling, away from the guns, the addicts and the gangsters.
The movie won the Audience Award at Sundance 2004 and Catalina Sandino Moreno won the award for Best Actress at the Berlin Film Festival, 2004 and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress at the 77th Academy Awards.
Fast fact: Colombia was the world’s largest producer of cocaine until 2012.
Verdict: Do watch this movie to know what exactly a drug mule has to go through being a mere pawn in the unholy business of drug smuggling
Hot: A whole new ‘human’ side to the illegal drug trade.
Not: Quite frankly, it’s scary.