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Movie Review: Maria Full of Grace (2004)

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Maria Full of Grace

Source: Wikipedia

Plot Summary (Taken from IMDB): A pregnant Colombian teenager becomes a drug mule to make some desperately needed money for her family.

My Review: One of the best things about this film was how universal the story was. There are themes that anyone can relate to, whether you speak the same language or not. These include struggling to provide for your familial love,  community, and more. Another aspect that made the story universal is how Maria was able to be in Columbia even when she wasn’t in Colombia. For instance, a snack that she had in Columbia could also be found in New York City’s “Little Columbia” district.

Another great aspect of the film was the characters. Maria starts out as a caring yet innocent young woman who wishes to “go somewhere else”, but becomes street smart and resilient. Don Fernando, the most compelling character of the film, is a compassionate and warm figure who supports his fellow Colombians through hard times.

Lastly, the most compelling aspect of the film is how it put a human face on drug trafficking. The characters and the plot felt like it could have been a chapter in Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. It is something that will haunt you and make you root for the characters.

Overall, this was a poignant film. I recommend this for foreign film fans and anyone who is willing to do anything to provide for their family or a loved one.

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Written by Serena Zola

October 16, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Movie Review: The First Grader (2010)

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The First Grader

Source: Wikipedia

Plot Summary (Taken from IMDB): The true story of an 84 year-old Kenyan villager and ex Mau Mau freedom fighter who fights for his right to go to school for the first time to get the education he could never afford.

My Review: One of the best aspects of the film is the characters. The main character Marugue is a resilient spirit who has survived the Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya. After enduring much hardship and tragic losses, Marague wants to better himself by attending school for the first time. His teacher, Jane Obinchu,  is the kind and bold.  Also, the other children lighten the story with song and dance, but a couple of them also bring out the best of Marugue.

Another good aspect of the film is the use of its setting, the country of Kenya in Africa.  It made the experience of the main character Maruge very palpable for the viewer. For instance, you see how simple his house is, a structure made of logs and the surrounding land almost bare except for a small garden and a goat. You also sympathize with him when you see how far he has to walk to get to the primary school.

Besides the characters and the use of its setting, the cinematography made the film powerful. The flashbacks are positioned so that the viewer slowly gets to know Maruge and see how traumatized he is by his terrible past.  The African vocals heard during certain scenes provide a meditative atmosphere for the viewer to think about the film as the movie progresses.

In addition to the characters, setting, and the cinematography, the film provides excellent commentary on the value of an education. One of the most striking scenes in the film involves the adult education school, which reflects so many of today’s public schools. Another powerful scene occurs when Maruge forces education officials to see why good teachers are necessary. Other commentary occurs in the form of lines like, “You never stop learning until you have soil in your ears.”

Overall, this was a very poignant film. Due to the strong violence and empowering message, I recommend this film for high school students and up.

 

 

 

 

Written by Serena Zola

August 4, 2014 at 10:00 AM

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